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Drug bust comes too late to prevent man’s overdose death

Sheriff’s Office and Buffalo narcotics detectives believe they saved a number of lives when they busted a city drug dealer this week and confiscated 2,100 bags of fentanyl he was telling buyers was heroin.

The bust came too late for one Concord heroin user who had purchased the drug, but that man’s death earlier this month spurred the investigation that resulted in the arrest of 26-year-old Dellsean Hamilton.

“He is a merchant of death. For a profit, he is willing to kill some people,” said Alan N. Rozansky, Erie County Sheriff’s Narcotics Unit chief.

But Hamilton made $20,000 bail within 24 hours and was back out on the street Thursday afternoon.

Meanwhile, police responded to three overdoses within approximately 10 minutes Thursday afternoon. One of the drug users was dead.

In addition to the felony charges that the detectives lodged against Hamilton, the Buffalo resident also faces other drug charges in Cheektowaga and was free on bail in that case, which dated back to March.

The Concord man’s brother also overdosed this month, but survived, Rozansky said, adding that detectives are trying to determine if Hamilton sold the same drugs to the brother, also a Concord resident.

“Hamilton’s got to know this is fentanyl, especially when his customers don’t come back,” Rozansky said. “We believe this was fentanyl laced with heroin.”

Usually, it is the other way around. Drug dealers will lace heroin with the chemically manufactured fentanyl in order to attract the business of addicts looking for a more intense high.

Fentanyl has been cited by police officials and Erie County Health Commissioner Gale R. Burstein as a major factor in the increased number of overdose deaths associated with the ongoing opiate epidemic. At the present pace, the number of overdose deaths this year is expected to double the 119 recorded in the county last year.

“This shows there is a problem out there as we’ve seen with the multiple deaths due to overdoses,” Buffalo Police Commissioner Daniel Derenda said of the bust. “Given recent history, we’ve probably saved lives with this seizure.”

Underscoring just how rampant the epidemic is, Derenda said that at about 4 p.m. Thursday, police officers responded to a call of two people who had overdosed in a car on the 1000 block of McKinley Parkway and were revived with the opiate antidote Narcan. Minutes later, police were called to Cantwell Drive, also in South Buffalo, where a man had died, believed to be the result of an overdose on opiates. Then at 6:30 p.m., a woman in the Northwest District overdosed and was revived by police with Narcan.

Shortly after 8:30 p.m., a woman was revived for the second time Thursday, with the police saving her on West Chippewa Street.

Then, about 8:45 p.m., on Norwood Avenue, a man was revived with Narcan after he overdosed.

Hamilton allegedly ran his drug-dealing operation out of his car and two houses, one on Dash Street in South Buffalo and the other on Edison Street on the East Side. When narcotics detectives from the Sheriff’s Office, Buffalo and Cheektowaga raided the homes simultaneously at 6 p.m. Wednesday, they seized the 2,100 bags of fentanyl, a shotgun, two rifles, about $12,000 and a money-counting machine, according to Lt. Sean O’Brien of the Buffalo Narcotics Unit.

Rozansky said Hamilton was selling each bag for $10, bringing the estimated value of the drugs to about $21,000.

Hamilton was charged with multiple felonies related to possession and sale of a controlled substance, and possession of a weapon. He also was charged with lesser drug-related counts. City Court Judge Betty Calvo-Torres has scheduled a felony hearing for Tuesday.