When they learned how Cal Heinen died last year at age 23, his parents and sister made a decision.
“Holding hands while sitting on his bed, that choice was to be open and honest about his death and why,” said Cal’s father, Aaron Heinen.
On Tuesday, they stepped before the cameras in Kent to explain how Cal died last year from a fentanyl overdose.
It was in a pill passed off as something else.
“We know Cal made a choice to take a pill. What he did not choose was not to wake up again,” said his mother, Diana Heinen.
The wrath of fentanyl laced into counterfeit pills was the backdrop to an announcement from the Drug Enforcement Administration that agents arrested 64 people in three local drug takedowns over the past six weeks.
Just two milligrams of fentanyl can be fatal.
“These drugs have been identified as the greatest threat in our region, and mass distribution is being controlled by transnational criminal cartels that have tentacles that reach from Mexico into the Puget Sound,” said DEA Special Agent in Charge Keith Weis.
Seized drugs include 332 pounds of meth, 87 pounds of heroin and 42,000 fentanyl pills.
COVID-19 has not slowed the drug trade.
“They have doubled down on using the pandemic as an opportunity to sell escape, addiction, and far too often, the death of our loved ones,” said U.S. Attorney Brian Moran.
“Each and every one of these drug busts that they’re doing saves lives, it takes a lot of pills off the street,” Aaron Heinen said.
His son’s life was full of promise.
The University of Idaho graduate moved to Seattle to pursue a career in film and media.
“If we’re able to talk about our son’s death, then it’s OK for each and every parent to go home and talk to their kids and then have their kids talk to their friends,” Heinen said.