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SPECIAL REPORT: Fentanyl on the rise

An Imperial Valley mother speaking out after fentanyl claimed the life of her son, what she wishes she knew then, and a powerful message for our community

IMPERIAL COUNTY, Calif. (KYMA, KECY) - Griselda Martinez living with the death of her son, 29-year-old Benny Alvarado.

"It was a lot of pain, especially the way I found out about the passing of my son. I felt guilty. I felt like I could have done more for him but I know our kids are lent to us," said Griselda Martinez.

Martinez said Benny was the oldest of five.

"Benny was actually born after my fifteenth birthday," said Martinez.

Growing up he liked to write rap music and he would often rap to them.

"He would rap out of nowhere. If he was doing something. Or if he was against something. He would start making up his own rap. 2pac was one of his top-notch. But he uploaded one on YouTube and I got to hear it. I was left with his voice," said Martinez.

But she said Benny started to drift away and hang out with the wrong crowd.

Eventually in and out of jail.

“I never saw him consume the drugs but I saw the effects when he would come home his attitude, his ranging attitude. He would talk to himself a lot, it was just a lot of, not my Benny,” said Martinez.

Martinez said she recalls the day her son died like it was yesterday.

“I remember coming to church on Ross Ave and I saw my son walking towards Buckin Park and it was right before the stop light and something told me like, I just said God bless you and protect you. I want to say that was when it happened,” said Martinez.

She said she was out of town and when she came back.

"I received a letter in the mail box from the county saying that my son had passed away and they were looking for a family member to I.D him," said Martinez.

Martinez said she wanted to know what happened to her son. How did he die? Why did he die?

"I came to know that my son passed away on August 2nd but he was in the hospital for thirteen days on life support due to the overdose of fentanyl," said Martinez.

She said the Imperial County Coroner told her there was a lot of deaths due to fentanyl.

"It was something out there in the streets, it’s something that is more harmful than heroin. And to me it’s like they want a better high," said Martinez.

El Centro Police Department Sergeant Steven Fisher said fentanyl is the biggest well- known drug on the street. Taking over every other drug you can think of - meth, heroine, cocaine you name it .

"It’s definitely an Imperial Valley problem. The numbers have just skyrocketed. We rarely come across heroin needles, cocaine. I mean the bigger cases where you’re pulling over the cartel type, quantity loads. As far as local users and drug addicts, it’s almost all fentanyl," said Sergeant Fisher.

Sergeant Fisher said there's even cases where high school students were caught with fentanyl pills.

According to the U.S Customs and Border Protection, in 2020 there were just 79 fentanyl seizures at the port of entry in Imperial County.

But in just two years those seizures almost quadrupled to more than 2,200 seizures.

Sergeant Fisher said in the last 90 days the City of El Centro has had about three fatal overdoses and about 19 overdoses where the person survived.

And four months ago they had one of the biggest fentanyl seizures ever in Imperial County.

"A 60 kilo seizure. That is over a 120 something pounds of fentanyl pills from Mexico out of a duffle bag. Well two that they stop someone, that's enough pills for the whole Imperial Valley," said Sergeant Fisher.

I rode along with Sergeant Fisher, he was able to show me some places around El Centro where fentanyl is more likely to be seen.

"So they will go to the clinic in the morning whenever their appointments are. They usually are all in front of the methanol clinic, they're there to get their medicine so they won't go through withdraws. And usually you would hope they just take their medicine and go home or back to where they came from but instead they go across the street and buy fentanyl or heroin, m-30 whatever they maybe using just to get high," said Sergeant Fisher.

Sergeant Fisher included that fentanyl is being sold everywhere and it’s becoming a huge problem.

"They're selling them in the schools, at clubs. They're selling them at bars, they're selling them out of their cars," said Sergeant Fisher.

The Imperial County Narcotic Task Force is currently working overtime to keep all kinds of drugs especially fentanyl out of the streets.

Sergeant Fisher said the goal is to capture the bigger fish, the dealers, the sellers.

Meanwhile, Griselda Martinez wants to raise awareness and send a message to those who are addicted to this deadly drug that took her son's life.

“Seek help. You know there are family members, loved ones, there's people who truly love you and get affected by this drug that is so powerful that can make you lose your life. You know and there are consequences, there are so many opportunities to do other things, become somebody, never lose hope and always go after your dreams. Don’t think there isn’t a light at the end of the tunnel,” said Martinez.

You can watch the extended story above.

Article Topic Follows: Special Reports

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Karina Bazarte

Karina Bazarte joined the KYMA team as a reporter in September 2022.
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