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Undercover Tampa officer speaks out after fentanyl exposure on the job

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TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — An undercover Tampa Police officer had a very close call on Thursday night while on the job after he was exposed to fentanyl during a narcotics investigation.

Officer Nico Vargas said he’s been testing narcotics for five years and has never experienced anything like this. Vargas said he’s feeling much better.

Chief Lee Bercaw said Narcan is what saved Vargas’ life.

“What happened last night was something that could’ve been much worse,” Bercaw said.

Vargas was conducting a narcotics investigation on Thursday night when his team discovered the substance they were testing, tested positive for fentanyl. It only took minutes for Vargas to feel the effects.

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“I started feeling the numbness in my legs and my arms, started feeling lightheaded, got a little dizzy, and I knew it wasn’t normal,” Vargas said.

As the symptoms intensified, Vargas’ partner administered one dose of Narcan.

“If he didn’t have that Narcan, I’m not sure what we would be talking about right now,” Bercaw said.

Vargas says each and every officer carries Narcan.

It’s been a frightening problem Tampa Bay area first responders have been seeing.

“For first responders, you just got to use caution testing this stuff,” Vargas said.

A Hillsborough County jail deputy at the Falkenburg Road Jail was exposed to a powdery substance near an inmate’s bunk last month. The substance tested positive for fentanyl and the deputy was given two doses of Narcan.         

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Weeks before that, another close call with a deputy in Flagler County, who was testing a drug during a traffic stop.

“It’s a very potent narcotic it could cause death I’ve seen it happen,” Vargas said. “I’ve gone to multiple calls where people overdose on fentanyl, and they die. We all have families it’s something that affects our community greatly.”

Source: WFLA

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