Comedian Fuquan Johnson and two others died while a comedian-model was rushed to hospital in critical condition this weekend from apparent overdoses of fentanyl-laced cocaine.
Johnson was 42-years-old.
The Los Angeles-based comic was among three people who were found dead at a party in the Venice neighborhood of Los Angeles early Saturday morning.
The other two victims have not been officially identified, while a fourth person who appeared to have also overdosed, believed to be comedian and model Kate Quigley, was transported to a hospital in critical condition, according to TMZ.
RIP: Comedian Fuquan Johnson, 42, died from an apparent overdose at a party in the Venice neighborhood of Los Angeles; he’s pictured in May 2018
Police were called to the party just after midnight and pronounced Johnson and the two others, who may have also been comedians, dead at the scene.
So far there’s no update on Quigley’s condition.
Investigators believe all four people ingested cocaine laced with fentanyl, a synthetic opioid similar to morphine that is 50 times more potent than heroin.
Autopsies are being performed on the three victims, which are currently at the Los Angeles Coroner’s Office.
Johnson and Quigley are known to have been friends, and have been photographed together over the last few years.
At this point, it’s unclear who supplied the drugs, and whether other people at the party also consumed the laced cocaine.
A fourth victim, found unconscious at the party, is believed to be comedian and model Kate Quigley; she was transported to a hospital in critical condition, according to TMZ
While LAPD is investigating, law enforcement sources told TMZ that the department’s homicide unit have not been notified about this particular case.
Quigley had previously been romantically linked to Hootie & The Blowfish lead singer Darius Rucker.
A representative of Rucker’s confirmed to the publication that he was no longer dating Quigley.
They were reportedly going out for a good portion of 2020, but are no longer in an intimate relationship.
Old flames: Quigley, 39, had been romantically linked to Hootie & The Blowfish lead singer Darius Rucker, but his representative told TMZ they no longer dated
According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 83,000 people lost their lives to drug-related overdoses in the 12-month period ending in July 2020, a significant increase from 2019, when more than 70,000 people died of overdoses.
The preliminary data also indicated there was a 26 percent increase in the number of cocaine-related overdose deaths, with fentanyl being the most likely driver of these fatalities.
Death counts through May 2020 suggest an acceleration of overdose deaths during the COVID-19 pandemic.
That estimate far eclipses the high of about 72,000 drug overdose deaths reached the previous year and amounts to a 29 percent increase.
While prescription painkillers once drove the nation’s overdose epidemic, they were supplanted first by heroin and then by fentanyl, a dangerously powerful opioid, in recent years.
Fentanyl was developed to treat intense pain from ailments like cancer but has increasingly been sold illicitly and mixed with other drugs.
Fentanyl was involved in more than 60 percent of the overdose deaths last year, CDC data suggests.
Last week, six residents on Long Island died from what authorities said were overdoses of fentanyl-laced cocaine.
The victims, who ranged in age from 25 to 40, died between August 11 and August 13 and were from towns on the North Fork in Suffolk County.
Nicole Elizabeth Eckardt, 34, of Greenport Village, was among six Long Island residents who died from a cocaine overdoes that was laced with fentanyl last week
Seth Tramontana (left), 27, and Swainson Brown, 40, were two of six individuals to die from fentanyl-related overdoses
Southold locals, Fausto Rafael Herrera Campos (left) and Navid Ahmadzadeh (right) also died from a fentanyl-related overdose in Suffolk County
They were: Fausto Rafael Herrera Campos, 25, and Navid Ahmadzadeh, 30, of Southold; Seth Tramontana, 27, and Nicole Elizabeth Eckardt, 34, of Greenport Village; and Matthew Lapiana, 32, and Swainson Brown, 40.
Police arrested Lavain Creighton, 51, and Justin Smith, 46, a few days after the overdoses. Creighton was charged with several counts of criminal sale of a controlled substance, while Smith was charged with possessing drugs and drug paraphernalia.
Anthony Scheller, Smith’s lawyer, told The New York Times his client did not sell the drugs.
‘He feels terrible for those people,’ Scheller said. ‘But he had no involvement.’
That was little solace to one of the victim’s parents.
‘They poisoned them to make money,’ said Seth Tramontana’s father, whose name is also Seth.’
‘You can say he made his choice and did what he was doing to have fun — but this is not what he asked for,’ his father said.
Police said the deceased were not heavy drug users, but recreational users instead.
Ahmadzadeh worked in jewelrymaking and sales in the diamond district of Manhattan, Brown was a chef, and Lapiana was a landscaper who always answered the phone with a joke.
The Southold Police said in addition to the six deceased, several other individuals also overdosed on fentanyl-laced cocaine between August 11 and August 13.
Those individuals were resuscitated with naloxone, or Narcan, a medication designed to immediately reverse an opioid.
The way naloxone works is it blocks the brain’s opioid receptors and restores normal breathing in individuals who overdosed on fentanyl, heroin or prescription painkillers.
Police and prosecutors believe the recent overdoses highlight a threatening shift in the street-drug marketplace, created by the same pandemic-linked issues affecting global supply chains and hiking up prices.
‘The same market forces that are causing shortages in everyday products are also putting pressures on the drug markets,’ said Timothy D. Sini, the Suffolk County district attorney. ‘All the while we have seen demand skyrocketing from users because of the impact the pandemic has had on them.’
In the beginning of Summer, c ocaine laced with fentanyl was reportedly wrecking havoc on New York City’s club scene, as young revelers returned to nightlife venues forced shut during the pandemic.
An officer from the US Customs and Border Protection, Trade and Cargo Division finds Oxycodon pills in a parcel at John F. Kennedy Airport’s US Postal Service facility on June 24, 2019 in New York
In spring, reports online indicated that at least two people suffered fatal overdoses from the tainted drug supply found in the Bushwick and Williamsburg sections of Brooklyn, as well as in the Ridgewood neighborhood of Queens.
The most recent statistics released by the NYPD in April indicate that eight percent of the city’s cocaine supply is laced with fentanyl, according to WNYC/Gothamist .
That amounts to almost one out of every 10 bags of cocaine sold on the street.
Five years ago, just two percent of the cocaine seized by the NYPD had traces of the dangerous opioid.
Like morphine, fentanyl is an opioid often used to treat severe pain after surgery, and is one of the most common drugs involved in overdose deaths throughout the United States.
It is typically mixed with heroin and/or cocaine – with or without the user’s consent—to increase its euphoric effects.
Cocaine overdoses tied to fentanyl aren’t solely constricted to the East Coast.
According to San Francisco’s Office of the Chief Medical Examiner , the Bay Area suffered nearly three times as many deaths from fentanyl overdoses than COVID-19 in 2020.
Statistics show 708 people were killed by fentanyl in 2020, a 173 per cent increase since 2018. That figure also dwarfs the 254 COVID-19-related deaths recorded in the city for the whole of 2020.
San Francisco’s death rate from fentanyl is rising in 2021: 135 died by overdose in January and February in San Francisco, on pace for more than 800 deaths by the end of the year.
In August, the Lincoln-Lancaster County Health Department in Nebraska also issued their own warning, after 26 overdoses linked to fentanyl-laced cocaine occurred within three weeks.
‘LPD investigations have uncovered that narcotics such as cocaine, methamphetamine, heroin, and counterfeit oxycodone pills have been found to contain the prescription pain killer fentanyl. When mixed with an illegal drug, an amount of fentanyl as small as a grain of salt can cause an overdose,’ the warning stated.