Army veteran rescues overdose victims from side of highway

Jeremy English said he was driving when he saw a car pulled over with four overdose victims inside


BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — Police officers, firefighters and paramedics aren't the only ones on the front lines battling the recent spate of drug overdoses in downtown Bloomington, in city parks and along public sidewalks.

Sometimes, an insurance agent joins in the fight.

Jeremy English had been driving east on the Ind. 45/46 Bypass, returning to work after lunch, when he passed a blue Chevrolet pickup truck, its hazard lights activated, stopped in the westbound lanes of traffic. He turned around, got out to offer help.

English said he immediately knew what he had stumbled upon. The people inside the truck were overdosing.

A man was unconscious, slumped over the steering wheel and foaming at the mouth.

A woman clutching a pipe used to smoke drugs was unconscious in the front passenger seat. There was a guy in the back seat, unconscious too. Another woman opened a back door on the truck and fell on the ground.

English waved down an Indiana University police car traveling in the eastbound lanes. "I said, 'Just grab a Narcan,'" he recalled of the June 28 incident.

Police say area overdoses in recent weeks have been caused primarily by Spice, synthetic cannabinoids made with chemicals and created in laboratories to skirt drug laws. Spice that has been seized by officers investigating the overdoses does not contain illegal substances as defined by law, Bloomington Police Chief Mike Diekhoff said in a news conference earlier this month that addressed the drug crisis and issues associated with it.

Rescue workers have been administering naloxone, the opioid overdose reversal drug known by the brand name Narcan, even to those having bad reactions after smoking Spice, as loss of consciousness and difficulty breathing are also signs of possible opioid overdose.

Of the four people inside the truck that afternoon, three had overdosed and two received naloxone. Police later determined the woman sitting in the back seat was not impaired and had put the truck in neutral when the driver passed out at the wheel.

At the time, English said, he jumped into action without really thinking about it. Now, he admits his feelings are more complicated.

"I read so many times through the day, 'Just let them die. What does it matter?' That may have been something that I'm guilty of saying. What kind of human would you be if you let them die?" said English, who served in the U.S. Army for eight years and as a deputy marshal in Gosport for two.

"It's really changed my outlook. And, I know it's a problem. But you can't just look at someone and say you should die because you're making bad decisions. People make bad choices all the time, but that shouldn't make you lose your humanity."

English, however, expressed concern about potential exposure to fentanyl, a synthetic opioid so powerful that rescue workers have been warned not to touch it. Across the country, drug dealers have mixed fentanyl into heroin to make a more potent product. It's lethal.

English said he hopes the people in the truck don't blame him for the criminal charges they now face. He was only trying to help.

The driver of the truck, a 38-year-old man with addresses in Greene and Vigo counties, faces charges of driving while intoxicated with endangerment and driving with a suspended license in connection with the June 28 incident.

On July 1, Bloomington police found him passed out in the truck in the 400 block of South College Mall Road. He was arrested again for his second driving while intoxicated charge in three days.

The 37-year-old transient woman in the front passenger seat June 28 received a misdemeanor citation for possession of paraphernalia. The court in April ordered her to complete 20 hours of community service after violating the terms of probation from a 2014 dealing in a narcotic drug conviction.

The 59-year-old Bloomfield man in the back seat of the truck was arrested on a preliminary misdemeanor charge of public intoxication. He has criminal histories in Monroe and Greene counties, including arrests for driving while intoxicated.

Copyright 2017 Herald-Times

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