Law enforcement officials in Minnesota vowed recently to take a more aggressive approach to combating the growing epidemic of heroin use, and they made good on that promise this week when murder charges were filed against two men for supplying the heroin that led to another man's overdose death.
Anthony Allyn Simons, 22, of Brooklyn Park, and James Marione Butchee, 29, of Minneapolis, were charged with third-degree murder in the death of a 22-year-old Maple Grove man this past summer, Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman announced Wednesday.
Freeman said his office has been more assertive in the past few years about charging people who supply drugs that lead to someone's overdose death.
“We are aggressively prosecuting,” Freeman said. “We want to send a statement.”
According to the criminal complaint, the victim, called JDP in court documents, went with two friends to buy heroin the night of July 11. One of those friends was Simons. They drove to a restaurant on Hennepin Avenue in Minneapolis and once there, Simons made a phone call, left the car and returned with a baggie containing heroin.
When they returned to the victim's home, JDP injected the heroin and began acting strangely, stripping off his clothing and speaking incoherently, according to the complaint.
Simons and the other friend said JDP was still alive when they left his home later that night. He was found dead the next morning, according to the complaint.
Simon reportedly admitted to police that he had arranged to buy the heroin from a man he knew as "C," who was later identified as James Butchee.
The number of heroin deaths in Minnesota has risen sharply in the past few years, as it's become cheaper to buy but is purer in form.
Police, prosecutors and medical experts are pursuing several strategies to help reduce those overdose numbers, which they discussed behind closed doors at a "heroin summit" in Minneapolis in September.
One of those strategies became a new state law this year; it allows emergency personnel to carry and administer a heroin (and other opiates) overdose antidote called Naloxone, often referred to as Narcan.
The new law also provides immunity from prosecution for people who call 911 to report an overdose.
In another recent case, authorities in October busted a large heroin ring that had been operating in north Minneapolis and indicted eight people on federal charges.
The dealers attracted drug buyers from all over the Twin Cities metro area, and sold more than 5,000 packets of heroin each month, according to the U.S. Attorney's office.