An off-duty Buffalo police officer overdosed on heroin last week, but was revived when an on-duty city police officer responded to a South Buffalo residence and administered at least two doses of the opiate antidote Narcan, three police sources said.
Northeast District Officer Michael R. Moffett, 26, was revived and taken to Mercy Hospital, two of the sources said. He later requested and was granted an unpaid medical release and is under investigation by the department’s Internal Affairs Division.
The incident has shaken members of the police force, who have been responding to hundreds of opiate overdose calls over the past two years. Since the beginning of 2014, more than 350 people have died from overdoses across Erie County, including 23 in an 11-day period from Jan. 29 to Feb. 8, according to the county Health Department. And the epidemic has shown no signs of abating.
“The department has a zero-tolerance policy on drugs, and something like this really is shocking. Right now, we are in shock mode. This is unheard of,” said one officer, who believes Moffett obtained deadly fentanyl-laced heroin.
Erie County and federal authorities last week issued an “emergency warning” about a deadly batch of fentanyl-laced heroin, urging addicts to dispose of recently purchased packets.
“I would say there’s a 99 percent chance he got the bad heroin with the fentanyl in it,” said the officer with knowledge of Moffett’s overdose. “Addicts will go out looking for this bad dope. Then they will sit around with Narcan looking to wake a friend up if he goes unconscious. It’s insanity but it is true.”
Moffett, who joined the department in January 2014, was at the South Buffalo residence of a friend when the overdose occurred Friday morning, according to all three police sources, who did not want to be identified because the department prohibits them from making public comments. Moffett’s companion left the residence on the 500 block of Dorrance Avenue and flagged down a police officer who happened to be driving by at 3 a.m., one of the three sources said.
South District Officer Joshua Domros was the first officer on the scene, followed by several other South District officers, a lieutenant, and an ambulance crew from Rural/Metro Medical Services. The call was logged as “unknown trouble,” and “two Narcan doses were administered,” according to police sources.
At 7 a.m., the call was listed as completed from Mercy Hospital, also in South Buffalo.
Officers who discussed the overdose expressed disappointment that one of their own would take heroin.
“This is the first time we have had an officer who had taken heroin,” one of three police officers said. “We’ve had other officers in the past who have lost their jobs because they tested positive for marijuana or cocaine, but this is the first time we’ve had heroin.”
The department normally conducts random drug testing on officers once a year, but that has not happened for more than two years after a contract concluded with a medical review officer, according to Police Benevolent Association President Kevin Kennedy.
“The city is hoping to have a new medical review officer in place by April or May and the plan is to have 100 percent testing every year for four years,” Kennedy said.
The PBA president said he was unaware of the overdose involving Moffett.
“I hadn’t heard of any officer having a problem, but the numbers don’t lie. It is a pervasive disease,” Kennedy said of the opiate epidemic.
The job of the medical review officer is to set the protocol for testing and examine laboratory test results to determine if anyone has violated the department’s zero-tolerance policy for illegal drug use.
The News on Tuesday evening contacted people at two South Buffalo homes where Moffett has been listed as residing. At one of the homes, a relative said it was not true that he had fallen victim to the opioid epidemic; at the second home, a resident said he was not available.