U.S. Attorney presents awards to 2 officers who investigated opioid deaths, injures

Sheriff’s Lt. Will Holton and Murfreesboro Police CID Sgt. Tommy Massey was honored by US attorney Don Cochran for opioid studies that resulted in one death and serious injuries to several others. From left are Sheriff Mike Fitzhugh, Holton, Cochran, Massey and Murfreesboro Police Chief Michael Bowen. (Submitted / RCSO)

Two officials investigating a rash from opioid overdose that resulted in the death and serious injury of seven people were honored Wednesday by U.S. attorney Don Cochran.

Murfreesboro Police CID Sgt. Tommy Massey and Lt. Will Holton of Rutherford County’s Sheriff received the US Attorney’s Award for Excellence in Law Enforcement.

The work of Massey and Holton was instrumental in the conviction of eight people in federal court, the US attorney said.

U.S. assistant attorney Amanda Klopf, who was prosecuting the case, said the Massey and Holton investigation are role models for other law enforcement agencies.

“It’s a real tribute,” said Cochran.

Massey called Klopf the “team MVP” and added that her words were a nice tribute to the officers.

The detective received a call in July 2016 about a death investigation and multiple overdoses during the day in Counties Rutherford and Bedford.

A person who overdosed and drove almost killed a woman and her daughter, he said.

Holton said he had been informed of the overdoses, which resulted in a long 72 hour preliminary investigation by Rutherford County’s law enforcement agencies, the Federal Drug Enforcement Administration and the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation.

“There has been overdose after overdose after overdose,” recalled Holton.

In a press release, the U.S. Attorney General reported that law enforcement and medical staff were overwhelmed by the wave of drug overdoses that resulted in the death of one person and the hospitalization of more than 20 others in Murfreesboro in July 2016.

The overdoses were caused by counterfeit pills that appeared to contain Percocet but actually contained a lethal combination of fentanyl, alprazolam, and acetaminophen.

The year-long investigation found that Joedon Bradley and Eric Falkowski’s pills were made using fentanyl they imported from China and a pill press they bought from Amazon. The tablet press allowed them to stamp the tablets with “A333”, similar to what happens on prescription percocets.

On July 5, 2016, Bradley sold about 300 of the counterfeit pills to Johnny Williams, who sold half to Jonathan Barrett. Bradley, Williams, and Barrett then sold the pills to different users, resulting in overdoses. Even after Barrett learned that some of the people he sold to had overdosed and one might have died, he sold the rest of his pills.

After a three-week trial in April 2018, Bradley, Williams and Barrett were convicted of conspiracy to distribute fentanyl, the use of which caused the death of one person and the grievous bodily harm of seven other victims. Five other defendants, including Eric Falkowski, pleaded guilty to the trial.

As a result of the determined efforts of officials on this team, the perpetrators of these formidable crimes have been brought to justice, with Bradley, Barrett and Williams sentenced to 30, 22 and 20 years in prison, respectively, and the other co-defendants to essential sentences.

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