Two More Drug War Deaths

[Editor's Note: Drug War Chronicle is trying to track every death directly attributable to domestic drug law enforcement during the year. We can use your help. If you come across a news account of a killing or death related to drug law enforcement, please send us an email at [email protected].]

The Las Vegas Metro Police K-9 unit is part of the state and federal Interdiction Team (Image: LVMPD)
In separate incidents this week, two more people have died during drug-related encounters with law enforcement. The two people, both as yet unnamed, become the 36th and 37th persons to die during US domestic drug law enforcement operations so far this year.

In Las Vegas, police reported that a man who had been caught transporting several pounds of methamphetamine was killed Tuesday night after he ran from police while handcuffed and jumped in front of a tractor-trailer truck on Interstate 15. He was killed instantly.

[Editor's note: The Las Vegas victim was later identified as Andrey Cordero Rojas, 29.The second victim has yet to be named.]

Police had found 12 pounds of meth they valued at $300,000 in a hidden compartment in the man's vehicle after he was pulled over by the Interdiction Team, a multiagency task force composed of state and federal agents.

They said the man had been cooperating when he suddenly ran onto the highway's passing lane and stopped in front of the oncoming truck. "We're not sure what he was thinking," a police spokesman said.

In the second incident, in Chester, Pennsylvania, police reported that an as yet unidentified 41-year-old Delaware County man who ingested a "white chalk substance" after officers approached his car died of apparent cocaine poisoning.

Police said they were patrolling the neighborhood when they noticed "suspicious activity" in the car. The man in the car locked the doors, then began eating the substance and washing it down with "gulps" of water. He unlocked the doors after he was done ingesting the substance and was transported to a local hospital where he died.

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They weren't sure what he was thinking?

Maybe that death is better than a life in prison where no respect would be given.


the alternative might have been death by torture.

These deaths are preventable

Both of these deaths were attributable to prohibition. Both men were probably thinking about how to avoid jail terms and the social consequences of arrest and conviction.

It's too bad that our government has decided to punish certain people for having a disease called addiction. I can't think of any other disease where punishment would be acceptable. Our nation would not accept forced treatment or jail for any disease like the common cold, TB, HIV, or cancer. Some mental illnesses were forcibly treated in the past, but our nation has moved to embrace scientifically based treatments that are optional for the recipient. The same needs to happen for addiction, a curious mental and bodily illness.

Drug courts are a lessening of the harshness of drug prohibition. But the presupposition of drug courts is the same as a traditional court: the disease of addiction is a crime. Drug courts offer treatment as part of the sentencing rather than cold, hard, confined punishment. The unethical part is that forcing treatment on anyone, outside of rare cases of mental incompetence, grants the government physical power over diseased people. Also, doctors, nurses, and staff are given money for people forced to seek their services.

We do not want a government where diseased people are legally under siege by the power of our bureaucracies, courts, and law enforcement. The consequences of allowing any diseased person to be forcibly treated would be terrible. We would all live in fear or run for our lives. It is so obviously wrong to allow the government this power, the people of our nation do not allow this. One glaring exception persists. One disease is persecuted, prosecuted, and forcibly treated to this very day.

Inconsistency is a traditional sign of political gaming, and our nation does not treat all addiction equally. Alcohol addicts are spared the threat of imminent arrest for possession of alcohol. Addicts to over-the-counter drugs are allowed to purchase their hazards. Prescription drug addicts remain in the care of their physician without court intervention, while the doctor may continue the prescription!  But politicians have carved out a selective list of drugs that met punishment or forced medical treatment. The list is arbitrary.

This punitive response to illness is wrong. It can't be made right by only choosing certain illnesses or parts of an illness. It can't be made right by choosing certain social classes of people who have the illness, or certain races, genders, sexual orientations, creeds or you name it. It is either okay for the government to punish people for having an illness or it is not.

Is your counter-argument that it is okay for some illnesses to be punished or forcibly treated? Some illnesses have disastrous effects on the community, especially children. People with those illnesses must be dealt with harshly because they do not voluntarily seek the treatment they need. Their punishment serves as a warning for others to not dabble with that disease.

To your counter-argument I appeal to reason, scientific and philosophical. There is no scientific study that demonstrates addicts cannot be healed and must be locked in prison to protect the community, or a study that demonstrates that addicts can be treated but that prison is an effective treatment for them. For the forcible treatment of addiction by drug courts, there is no ethics study that says it is okay for doctors, nurses, and other medical staff to receive payment, for services rendered to patients that are forced to visit them.

The two men died who were in all probability addicts. The laws designed to force them to heal failed. The poor choices made by the men were desperate attempts to avoid the legal and social consequences of their disease being made public. Their actions are their own and I am not justifying their choices. Neither will I justify the law bent on forcing them into health.

On the other hand if someone commits a true offense against person or property such as theft or DUI, and that person is found by the court to be an addict of some drug, it is within the courts right power to use the opportunity of sentencing to offer drug treatment as a carrot and prison as a stick. This situation is radically different than forcing a person into treatment simply for having a disease.




your comment

it sure is nice to read an intelligent and thought out response.  you are so correct when you say that it is the prohibition that is causing more problems than the drugs themselves! thanks again

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