A vigil and press conference were held Thursday for one of the 14-year-old victims of a wave of fentanyl overdoses that swept through Carrollton-Farmers Branch Independent School District.
The mother of Jose Alberto Perez, 14, spoke in front of numerous cameras and two dozen people while a local organizer declared war on drug dealers.
Lilia Astudillo, the mother of Perez, said in Spanish, translated by organizer Carlos Quintanilla, that her son had asked police to arrest him due to his fentanyl abuse but was told he could not be arrested because he had not committed a crime.
Astudillo said through visible emotion, holding a poster with the name and image of her son, that she came to give her son a voice and encourage other parents to speak out about the fentanyl crisis and what they have experienced.
“It’s not easy to have a parent in front of all these cameras to talk about the death of her child,” Quintanilla said.
Quintanilla called for the creation of resources that might make it easier to understand and address the fentanyl crisis.
“There’s no database,” he said, explaining it would be useful to know how many people sought treatment, died, and other data points. “I think that’s a very critical issue.”
Quintanilla also suggested that schools become stricter and implement a zero-tolerance policy toward fentanyl, including having drug-sniffing dogs in schools and mandatory drug testing.
“I think that will serve as a deterrent,” he said.
So far, three people have been arrested in connection with the three overdose deaths, which allegedly stemmed from a drug house near a middle school in the Carrollton-Farmers Branch ISD, as previously reported by The Dallas Express.
Jason Xavier Villanueva, 22, the most recent person arrested, allegedly supplied the drugs to Eduardo Navarrete, 21, and Magaly Mejia Cano, 29, who in turn allegedly distributed the drugs at the school.
Quintanilla told The Dallas Express that the main purpose of the event was to get a message out to the public about fentanyl.
“Fentanyl is the most dangerous drug of all time,” he said. “We need to develop a comprehensive plan.”
He expressed a desire to organize a task force spanning the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex to combat the drug and those who deal it.
“When we have a 14-year-old that dies from fentanyl and have three [students] die in a month, that’s very dangerous,” Quintanilla said.
At the end of the vigil, white balloons were distributed among the attendees and released into the sky as a tribute to those who died from fentanyl overdoses.
Nicolas Quintanilla, son of Carlos, added that what’s happening now is reminiscent of the cheese heroin epidemic, which caused a string of deaths in the 2000s.
“Different times, different drugs,” he said, but noted that no matter the time period, it’s a tragedy to see youth dying from overdose.