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Medical experts questioning body cam video of fentanyl incident

Posted at 2:12 PM, Aug 14, 2021

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) -- Questions still remain Friday night after unedited video was released showing what the Sheriff's Department said was a deputy overdosing on fentanyl after being exposed to the drug on July 3.

"I am puzzled by the fact that the Sheriff has not yet retracted his previous statements about this being an overdose," shares Leo Beletsky a professor at UC San Diego School of Medicine, "This is not an overdose."

The first hour-long video shows Deputy Faiivae collapsing. The second video was from the perspective of the Corporal who was training him, Scott Crane.

The video shows Deputy Faiivae with his gloves on, searching a vehicle and touching the narcotics which are inside of clear bags. Throughout the searching process, he continually removes and replaces his gloves.

Moments before his collapse, he removes his gloves and proceeds to transfer the narcotics into different bags. The video then shows him collapsing.

The Sheriff's Department released an edited version of the video two weeks ago, warning the public about the dangers of fentanyl overdoses, and the dangers it poses to law enforcement.

After seeing the edited video medical experts shared doubts that it was an overdose. In response, Thursday night, the Sheriff's department released two hours of unedited body camera video.

But Friday night, medical experts say the expanded video, still leaves them with the same doubts over whether Deputy Faiivae did in fact overdose.

"There is just not a biological mechanism for that powder to move across your skin into your blood stream," shares Beletsky, "So it would be virtually impossible, for someone to feel any sort of symptoms, let alone to overdose."

Thursday night the Sheriff's Department also revealed that a toxicology test was not given to Deputy Faiivae at the hospital. Beletsky says that is normal.

"It would be unusual I think to have the hospital do a toxicology test on someone who comes into the hospital for an emergency such as this," expresses Beletsky, "This is standard procedure."

Looking back at the body cam footage you can hear Corporal Crane question the cause, "Do you think it was the dope? Do you think it was heat exhaustion?"

Deputy Faiivae could be heard saying, "I just got lightheaded."

Experts state that overdose symptoms are shallow breathing, blue lips and gurgling sounds. Beletsky also says if Deputy Faiivae was overdosing, response to Narcan, typically works in minutes, "This particular officer had Naloxone administered roughly 3 to 4 doses which is a lot within a 10 minute span, and he did not seem to respond to that medication at all."

With no testing done, Beletsky says the decision to rush out a video, calling it a fentanyl overdose, does more harm than good.

Beletsky says it puts out misinformation on what an overdose looks like, and scares people into not helping someone who needs medical attention.

"The picture remains the same that it almost certainly was not an overdose and we should correct the record," Beletsky said.

ABC10 News reached out to the Sheriff's Department to see if there has been any new answers. As of Friday night, we have not yet heard back.

Beletsky believes that the attention this case is getting may prompt toxicology reports to be conducted in the future, for cases like this.

Footage captured by Deputy David Faiivae's body camera, as provided by the sheriff's department:

Deputy Faiivae Body Camera Video - San Diego County Sheriff's Department from San Diego County Sheriff on Vimeo.

Footage captured by Deputy Scott Crane's body camera, as provided by sheriff's department:

Deputy Crane Body Camera Video - San Diego County Sheriff's Department from San Diego County Sheriff on Vimeo.