First-ever body cavity search of Snohomish County inmate finds bag of fentanyl

EVERETT, Wash. — More drug problems at the Snohomish County jail. Two inmates overdosed recently - and as a result - authorities conducted a cavity search on another inmate.

Per state law, a warrant is needed to do that search. The two who overdosed needed Narcan and CPR to revive them, just some of the factors that went into a judge granting that warrant.

“The guy that had the cavity search had interactions with the two people that overdosed inside the facility,” said Snohomish County Special Operations Captain Robert Ogawa.

Those two inmates who overdosed were housed in the same module as the inmate searched. Cpt. Ogawa said jail staff reviewed security footage after the incidents and saw the inmates pass something back and forth.

“There was some strange behavior he was exhibiting so they did a strip search on him, and they saw something and he pushed it back up,” explained Cpt. Ogawa.

That inmate told staff he had a hernia, but a nurse said otherwise.

“We put him on a special watch to keep an eye on him hoping that he would give up whatever he had and basically it didn’t work out,” the Captain said.

He said deputies knew the potential danger posed by the suspected drug and applied for a warrant. A judge and the Bureau Chief, who runs the jail both approved granting the cavity search warrant.

“It was contained in a baggy right? And the bag is inside his body, and it ruptures it could be fatal,” said Cpt. Ogawa. He added, “The bigger challenge was finding a hospital that would execute it.”

An Everett medical facility gastrointestinal specialist determined the inmate needed a procedure to remove what was found to be a bag of fentanyl. They also called it a medical emergency; but Harborview in Seattle, Providence in Everett, and Edmonds’ Swedish all denied performing the procedure. A hospital in Monroe finally agreed to perform the procedure.

None of the hospitals responded to KIRO 7′s inquiry: Is it legal under HIPPA to deny care deemed a medical emergency?

The Washington State Hospital Association could only say: “The hospital will determine how long it needs to medically treat the person in order for safe discharge from the hospital.”

“The level of danger that fentanyl presents to the community at large but also the people inside the jail, it’s a different game now.” Cpt. Ogawa added, “We had seven overdoses [in May] and then a couple more here this past week I mean we have to step up our game I guess for the lack of a better term.

Everyone booked into the jail goes through a body scan machine. Some are strip searched depending on what they’re being booked for. Any red flags seen on the scanner also may result in a strip search. Deputies are still looking into how the drugs got into the jail, whether the inmate snuck them in himself or obtained them inside jail walls.