Responding to their first call of the day, two San Diego sheriff’s deputies had no idea one of them was about to suffer a near-fatal drug overdose. His partner would be called upon to save his life.
On July 3, Deputies David Faiivae and his field training officer Corporal Scott Crane, of the San Marcos Sheriff’s Station, were investigating what was suspected to be fentanyl at the scene of an arrest. In bodycam footage taken at the scene, Crane is heard warning his partner that he was getting too close.
Seconds later, Faiivae took two steps back and collapsed.
The deputies had followed all safety protocols handling the fentanyl—a synthetic opioid 50 times stronger than heroin. Just a few grains can be absorbed into the body and cause respiratory failure and even death.
“I just remember not feeling right and then I fell back,” Faiivae, who survived, later recalled. “I don’t remember anything after that.”
Recognizing the signs of an overdose immediately, Crane ran to the trunk of the police cruiser and grabbed some of the drug Naloxone (commonly known as Narcan), a nasal spray which can reverse the effects of an opioid overdose, and administered one spray into each of Faiivae’s nostrils, before turning the deputy onto his side.
Later describing his lungs as being “locked up,” Faiivae was rendered totally incapacitated. Crane supported his partner’s head and encouraged him to breathe. Hearing the deputy whisper “I’m sorry,” the corporal reassured him, “Don’t be sorry, I got you; I’m not gonna let you die.”
Soon, EMS arrived and transferred Faiivae into an ambulance. His eyes rolled back into his head as the overdose progressed en route to the hospital.
“I don’t think people realize the severity of how deadly it really is,” the now-recovered deputy said.
The department interviewed both officers and included Crane’s bodycam footage to produce a video highlighting the dangers of fentanyl. Sheriff Bill Gore offered a sobering truth: “Fentanyl overdoses are on the rise throughout our county; every day, deputies recover fentanyl in our communities.”
Gore asked the public to share the announcement with others.
“It might save the life of your son, daughter, friend, or loved one,” he said.
The video has amassed over 4.9 million views on YouTube, to date.
In response to inquiries about the footage’s authenticity, the department released a statement confirming that it was indeed an “actual incident involving our deputy as he processed a white powdery substance that tested positive for fentanyl.”
Additionally, they released both the incident and dispatch reports as well as lab results from the seized substance.
In 2014, the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department became the first law enforcement agency in the western U.S. to allow all its deputies to carry Narcan. Deputies working in county jails also carry Narcan, to be used in the event of a person in custody suffering an overdose.
That day on July 3, it saved Deputy Faiivae’s life.
“It’s an invisible killer,” said Crane. “He would have died in that parking lot if he was alone.”
(Courtesy of San Diego County Sheriff’s Department)