April 20, 2023

Nebraska Sen. Pete Ricketts says fentanyl dealers should face murder charges


LINCOLN, Neb. (KLKN) — There’s a growing push to fight our country’s deadly fentanyl crisis by creating a felony murder charge for dealers.

And now Sen. Pete Ricketts is adding his name to the Felony Murder for Deadly Fentanyl Distribution Act.

Ricketts told Channel 8 on Thursday that the bill will deter the distribution of pills laced with fentanyl.

“It’s incredible that if you distribute fentanyl and kill somebody, it’s not a murder charge,” he said. “To me, this just makes common sense to really match up the seriousness of the crime with the penalty.”

The senator said he’d be working persuade his colleagues to support the bill.

He said it’s a nonpartisan issue and noted that according to the CDC, fatal drug overdoses have been steadily rising since 2019.

“And that’s what we hope to convince others in the Senate of,” he said. “I intend to continue to work with Sen. (Marco) Rubio to be able to push this bill so that we can hold accountable the criminals that are killing our young people.”

The Drug Enforcement Administration’s Omaha Division said it seized over 4.7 million lethal doses in five Midwest states last year.

The opioid is 50 times stronger than heroin, and just two milligrams is considered a potentially deadly dose. That’s small enough to fit on the tip of a pencil.

Special Agent in Charge Justin King said the DEA has already seized over 16 million pills and over 2,700 pounds of powder nationwide this year.

He said those seizures could have resulted in over 78 million lethal doses.

“It is probably the most dangerous drug threat we’ve ever faced in this country, and it is killing people at an alarming rate,” King said. “From August of 2021 to August 2022, over 107,000 people died in this country as a result of a drug overdose. And over 70% of those had fentanyl in them, so that just shows you how dangerous it is.”

King said dealers are constantly trying to expand their networks to get more people addicted to the drug.

He said the DEA is always working nationally and internationally to stop the flow of these drugs and the synthetic chemicals used to make them.

In a speech on the Senate floor, Ricketts said, “Let’s think about if a terrorist attacked our country and killed 106,000 Americans. We’d be up in arms! We’d be mobilizing the country.”

Law enforcement in Lincoln says harsher sentences for those distributing the drug could discourage criminals.

Chief Deputy Ben Houchin with the Lancaster County Sheriff’s Office said fentanyl will often be mixed with other drugs, and the people taking it don’t know, so they overdose accidentally.

“It’s not a secret how dangerous this is,” he said. “And people know it does kill people, and it kills a lot of people. So if you’re willing to go out there and still sell that, I support this bill extremely. People need to realize if you’re going to do this and people die, you’re going to get charged and you’re going to get held responsible for the death.”

Houchin said that in recent years, the sheriff’s office had several large cases involving fentanyl, including one where it seized about 60,000 pills.

Saturday is National Drug Take Back Day.

The DEA says if you have any old prescriptions you don’t want, you can bring them to the Hy-Vee near 50th and O streets from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.


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