ASHLAND CITY, Tenn. (WKRN) — The dangers of fentanyl are serious and could be deadly, which is why one Cheatham County family has pushed for the drug dealers who sell it to be held more accountable when someone overdoses, and for the overdoses to be ruled homicides.
Quintenn Clark was 20 years old when he overdosed on fentanyl-laced heroin in March 2021. His mother, Tonya Garton told News 2 when he died, her world stopped.
“Before there was always hope that he was going to stop [using] and that he would realize his worth,” Garton said. “As long as he was breathing there was hope, but he wasn’t breathing anymore.”
Garton learned 20 months after Quintenn’s overdose that his death was ruled accidental, and his case with Clarksville police was inactive.
“It feels like he’s just another addict, and I think that’s how they view overdoses and fentanyl deaths is they’re just another addict,” Garton said. “And I think some people view it as good they’re off the streets when these are real people.”
Garton said insurance refuses to pay out for overdose deaths, and while she admits that wasn’t as important in Quintenn’s case because he was young, it has caused other families to suffer financially after their loved-one overdoses.
Garton wants overdoses to be ruled homicides.
“People fight for it to not be called an overdose when it’s fentanyl, they want it to be called poisoning and want it to be considered a homicide, because it is contaminating the drugs, and I wasn’t sure I was ever on board with that until now,” Garton said. “I was like, wait a minute, because it was an overdose and considered accidental, they just stopped investigating. They just stopped everything.”
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Lt. Shannon Heflin with the Cheatham County Sheriff’s Office told News 2 dealers whose drugs result in death can be charged with second-degree murder, however, they are some of the most difficult cases to build.
“Where we’re having a problem is that when someone overdoses and Narcan and CPR brings them back, there’s not an attempted second-degree murder statute,” Heflin said. “That’s what we need.”
Cheatham County has had 15 fatal drug overdoses so far this year, which is a record high for the area. Heflin blames fentanyl.
“It’s poison,” Heflin said. “That’s what they’re putting on the streets is poison, and it’s resulting in deaths. There needs to be more punishment for that.”
Heflin called on legislators to create harsher punishments and stricter laws that will deter drug dealers from selling in the first place.
Quintenn’s mother told News 2 she doesn’t necessarily want to see low-level drug dealers do a lot of time; instead, she said they should also be required to get the help they need through drug court or rehab.
The Quintenn Clark Foundation, created in Quintenn’s honor, works to raise money to send those struggling with addiction to rehab. To learn more, click here.