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DRUG-OVERDOSE DEATH PROMPTS INQUIRY INTO CRIMINAL CULPABILITY

A North Tonawanda drug party ended tragically last week when a young man died from an injection administered by a friend, authorities said Thursday.

Now an investigation is under way by the Niagara County district attorney's office and North Tonawanda police detectives to determine if any criminal actions caused the death.

The 22-year-old North Tonawanda man, whose name was withheld by police, was injected with an unknown drug at a home on Remington Drive, where he and several other people had been partying over a two-day period, starting last Friday night.

"At this point, we are trying to determine factually what occurred to cause the death. The preliminary indication is it's an overdose," said Timothy R. Lundquist, first assistant Niagara County district attorney.

Statements from other individuals at the party and a toxicology report on what substances were in the man's system will help determine if any criminal conduct occurred, Lundquist said.

Sources in the case say it is possible that evidence could soon be presented to a grand jury and that charges might be sought against more than one individual who was at the gathering.

The party started on Friday night. It broke up at some point late in the evening, and then participants regrouped in the Remington Drive residence at about 8 a.m. Saturday.

"They went into Buffalo and bought drugs and returned to North Tonawanda, where a companion of the 22-year-old man injected him. We're not sure what type of drug it was, but we believe he was conscious when the injection was given," a law enforcement official in the case said.

The man then slept for an unknown period of time before fellow partygoers noticed he was having difficulty breathing, authorities said.

"We believe it was several hours between the injection and when the call was made to 911 at 12:45 p.m.," the official said.

Niagara County Coroner Joseph V. Mantione pronounced the man dead at 1:45 p.m. Saturday in DeGraff Memorial Hospital in North Tonawanda.

Relatives of the young man were shocked by his death, Mantione said.

"It's an unfortunate and terrible tragedy. I hope something is learned from this," Mantione said Thursday. "The deceased's mother and brother are devastated. They're asking, 'Why did it happen?' "

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