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Public Safety

San Diego Sheriff Releases Details On Disputed Fentanyl Video, But Questions Remain

Sheriff's deputy trainee David Faiivae being helped after a suspected Fentanyl overdose, July 3, 2021.
San Diego County Sheriff’s Department
Sheriff's deputy trainee David Faiivae being helped after a suspected Fentanyl overdose, July 3, 2021.

Responding to doubt in the medical community about its video on the dangers of handling fentanyl, the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department has released more details about a deputy fainting during a vehicle search.

But the agency left out any medical findings that would confirm its controversial contention in the video that the deputy overdosed on fentanyl after exposure to the drug.

San Diego Sheriff Releases Details On Disputed Fentanyl Video, But Questions Remain
Listen to this story by Amita Sharma

RELATED: San Diego Sheriff’s Fentanyl Video Alarms Medical Experts

A Sheriff’s Department incident report shows that deputy trainee David Faiivae passed out July 3 after he bent down and his unmasked face came close to an area where he had just tested narcotics, including fentanyl, a powerful synthetic opioid.

“Deputy Faiivae lost consciousness and sustained an injury to his head during a fall,” the report said.

He was taken to Palomar Medical Center where he was treated for a head injury and possible fentanyl exposure.

However, while the department provided more information regarding the incident, it still hasn’t released a toxicology report that would confirm whether Faiivae did indeed have fentanyl in his system and, if so, how much.

That is the central question in the controversy that first erupted on social media last week soon after the department released a video on the incident. The video, which was highly produced and included ominous theme music, showed Faiivae collapsing after inspecting a Jeep Wrangler behind a mortuary in San Marcos.

RELATED: San Diego County Sheriff Bill Gore Announces He Will Not Seek Fourth Term Next Year

Sheriff’s deputies arrested the vehicle’s owner Robert Smith on suspicion of vandalism and narcotics possession.

Some doctors skewered the department’s release of the video saying it is highly unlikely that Faiivae overdosed after what appeared to be limited contact with the drug. Others expressed reservations but withheld judgement.

“Based on what the video shows, it looks like that all happened too quickly to really be able to tell that this person had a significant fentanyl exposure,” said Carla Marienfeld, medical director of the UCSD Addiction Recovery and Treatment Program.

Sheriff Bill Gore, however, told The San Diego Union-Tribune Monday that he is the one who determined Faiivae had overdosed on fentanyl.

Video: San Diego County Sheriff's Official Respond To Doctor Doubt Over Deputy Fainting

Undersheriff Kelly Martinez told KPBS last week that others actually made that call.

“That’s what the paramedics believe happened and the doctors at the hospital believe happened,” Martinez said in response to a reporter’s questions about the overdose determination.

Gore, who told the Union-Tribune that he was “shocked” by the public response to the video, declined interview requests from KPBS on Tuesday.