BLOOMSBURG -- Columbia County is the latest to vow a crackdown on the deadly heroin epidemic. Deal drugs to someone who dies in Columbia County and you could face charges in connection with the death.
Officials in Columbia County did not waste any time doing this, either. A 30-year-old man was charged with involuntary manslaughter after police say he supplied someone with drugs, and that person died. The coroner says he decides if a drug-related death is a homicide and lets police take it from there.
Ahmed Ragab, 28, left his house on August 13 but never came home. His family found him in a parking lot near Bloomsburg. He was dead inside his vehicle with traces of heroin around him. Hemlock Township police found text messages between Ragab and Sean Michaels. The messages discussed a drug deal. Columbia County Coroner Jeremy Reese ruled Ragab's death a homicide, and this past weekend, Michaels was arrested on charges including drug delivery resulting in death.
Officials in Columbia County say they've ruled three of the county's 19 drug-related deaths this year as homicides.
"If we're able to prove that someone was the cause of that death, then we are certainly going to move forward with those charges," Assistant District Attorney Rebecca Reimiller said.
The people we spoke with agree it's a good idea to prosecute the drug dealers because while it may not stop the problem, it could help it.
"That's where all of this is coming from. If we eliminate them then we will eliminate the problem. Well, not completely, but enough that not many people will die," Renee Markle said.
"But at the same time, you have addicts who are going to go to great lengths to get these drugs regardless, so it's all in all a sticky situation. I don't know how it's going to turn out," Sydney Campbell said.
Jessica Mowery of Orangeville had a friend die from an overdose earlier this year. Even though her friend's death was not a homicide, she wants tougher punishment for drug dealers.
"They might not be addicted themselves, but they're preying on these people who are addicted and they're taking it and they're dying," Mowery said.
Coroner Jeremy Reese says if you know someone with a drug problem -- or who is dealing -- get them help and do not wait.
"It doesn't mean calling the police and getting them in trouble. Try to get them into rehab, befriend them, monitor them. You just have to watch them and try to help them any way you can," Reese said.
Another man in the Bloomsburg area faces similar charges for allegedly dealing heroin to a man who died. A third death was ruled a homicide and several more drug-related deaths are under investigation in Columbia County.