State Attorney General Josh Shapiro's office announced Tuesday the seizure of 250,000 bags of fentanyl-laced heroin worth $2.6 million and again criticized Philadelphia's approval of so-called safe injection sites.
"I want people to understand what it's like to use heroin and fentanyl: It's like playing Russian roulette," Shapiro said at a news conference at his regional office in Tinicum Township, Delaware County. "You shoot this poison in your veins and you have no idea whether you're going to live or whether you're going to die."
The drug seizures occurred Sunday night in Philadelphia, where an estimated 1.200 people died from drug overdoses in 2017 — quadruple the murder rate.
Charged were Cesar Guzman, 24, and Duagermy Sanchez-Rosario, 30. Both are from the Dominican Republic, and Guzman had entered the country illegally, a spokesman for Shapiro said.They are being held in lieu of $1.5 million bail each.
During a monthlong investigation, agents from the state Attorney General's Office were able to make "controlled buys" of heroin from Guzman and eventually set up surveillance on both men and their house on the 4300 block of North Fourth Street in the city's Feltonville section.
In addition to the drugs, investigators seized over $6,500 in cash from the two men along with a loaded handgun and other items.
After announcing the drug seizure, Shapiro reiterated his criticism of Philadelphia's decision to approve so-called safe injection sites.
"I think they're illegal," he said. "There's no safe way to inject yourself with this type of poison."
Last month city officials approved the use of the heroin-injection sites. "We are facing an epidemic of historic proportions," Health Commissioner Thomas Farley said in making the announcement. Philadelphia isn't operating the sites but is encouraging private organizations to do so.
The decision was criticized by Shapiro, who said at the time that sanctioning a safe injection site "presents significant public safety concerns, and changes in state and federal law would need to occur for these sites to operate legally."
"We've had conversations with Attorney General Shapiro, and we respect the A.G.'s opinion on this," said Kenney administration spokesman Mike Dunn. "We're fully aware — and have made clear — that there are many discussions to be had with various partners and stakeholders before a site is up and running."
Guzman and Sanchez-Rosario have already been arraigned and will be in court for a preliminary hearing Feb. 27.