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3 N.C. inmates overdose at courthouse

Emergency responders administered Narcan to the unresponsive inmates inside a Mecklenburg County Courthouse holding cell


Naloxone (Narcan) is an opioid agonist that reverses a narcotics overdose.

AP Photo/Robert Schermer

By Joe Marusak, Evan Moore
The Charlotte Observer

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Emergency responders revived three inmates found unresponsive in a Mecklenburg County Courthouse holding cell on Monday afternoon, jail officials said.

Charlotte Fire Department personnel were first to arrive at the courthouse on East Fourth Street following an emergency “poisoning” call, and relayed that the three patients were administered Narcan, according to emergency radio traffic obtained by The Charlotte Observer via Broadcastify. Naloxone (brand name Narcan) is an opioid antagonist — used in an emergency to reverse an overdose.

The use of Narcan has been on the rise among first responders, the Observer reported previously.

Around 17% of people incarcerated in state prisons and 19% of people incarcerated in jails report regular opioid use, according to the Legal Action Center, an organization that advocates for people with substance use disorders.

All three inmates suspected of suffering an overdose in Charlotte on Monday survived, according to the latest information available.

An investigation into what happened is underway, the sheriff’s office said in a news release Monday night. The Mecklenburg Clerk of Court’s office referred questions to the sheriff’s office.

At 3:30 p.m. Tuesday, a sheriff’s office spokesman said he couldn’t confirm why the inmates were found unresponsive, because the office was still investigating the cause.

“As far as combating any contraband that enters the Detention Center, the Sheriff’s Office searches all residents who enter the facility and we do conduct unannounced searches with staff,” spokesman Bradley Smith told The Charlotte Observer in an email.

Defendants in jail are routinely transferred from the jail to the courthouse in uptown Charlotte for court sessions, such as bond hearings. The two buildings are connected.

The sheriff’s office says the incident happened in an area where people in police custody wait in the courthouse. It’s unclear how many people were in the room, whether the three people were under direct guard supervision at the time, and what type of hearing the inmates were in the courthouse for.

The incident was described by the sheriff’s office as a “medical emergency” and officials said names of the three people will not be publicly released.

Deputies had immediately notified Medic, the Charlotte Fire Department and Wellpath, the health care provider at the jail, officials said.

The Charlotte Fire Department arrived at 3:28 p.m., Medic at 3:35 p.m. and medical staff from Wellpath at 3:42 p.m., Smith told the Observer on Tuesday.

The inmates “were responsive as they were being transported to Atrium Health Carolinas Medical Center for additional treatment and evaluation,” according to the news release.

Other inmates also were in the holding cell waiting for court, Smith said. Prior to being moved to the courthouse, the three defendants were in jail housing pods, he said.

In a statement, Sheriff Garry McFadden said he was proud his staff and the first responders who quickly responded to the cell for their “exemplary handling of this incident.”

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