Last December, Officer Courtney Bannick was on the job for the Tavares, Fla., police department when she came into contact with a powder she believed was street fentanyl.
The footage from another officer’s body camera shows Bannick appearing to lose consciousness before being lowered to the ground by other cops.
“I was light-headed a little bit,” Bannick later told WKMG, a local television station. “I was choking, I couldn’t breathe.”
Other officers can be heard on the tape describing Bannick’s medical condition as an overdose. They administered Narcan, a medication that reverses opioid poisoning.
“She’s breathing,” a cop says. “Stay with me!”
The Tavares police department blamed the incident on fentanyl. Local officials declined NPR’s requests for an interview, as did Bannick. Speaking with WKMG, a television station in Orlando, she said she felt lucky to be alive.
“If I didn’t have backup there, I wouldn’t be here today,” she said soon after the incident.
Reports of police suffering severe medical symptoms after touching or inhaling powdered fentanyl are common, occurring “every few weeks” around the U.S. according to experts interviewed by NPR.
But many experts say these officers aren’t experiencing fentanyl or opioid overdoses.
“This has never happened,” said Dr. Ryan Marino, a toxicologist and emergency room physician who studies addiction at Case Western Reserve University. “There has never been an overdose through skin contact or accidentally inhaling fentanyl.”