Snohomish County Jail. (Sue Misao / The Herald file)
Snohomish County Jail. (Sue Misao / Herald file)

Snohomish County Jail. (Sue Misao / The Herald file) Snohomish County Jail. (Sue Misao / Herald file)

Police: 7 inmates taken to Everett hospital due to smuggled fentanyl

Jail staff noticed inmates apparently overdosing. Suspected fentanyl was found in the cell of an eighth inmate, who faces new charges.

EVERETT — On a torn piece of paper inside a box of Kellogg’s Club Crackers, a detective at the Snohomish County Jail discovered the residue of a “white powdery substance,” according to a police report filed in court Thursday.

The piece of paper in cell No. 36 had half of an inmate’s name printed on it, sheriff’s deputies wrote. Justin Sims, 37, of Arlington, is now suspected of smuggling fentanyl into the jail, leading to the apparent overdoses of seven other inmates Wednesday night.

All seven were expected to survive.

Around 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, a corrections officer noticed an inmate who he was familiar with acting unusual, said Snohomish County sheriff’s Lt. Tom Morris. He was reportedly pulling on his beard and banging his head against the wall, Morris said.

While the officer treated the inmate, he noticed his cell mate was unresponsive, with symptoms “associated with an opiate overdose,” Morris said.

Within 15 minutes, deputies discovered a total of seven inmates in the same housing unit “displaying physical signs of an overdose,” according to the sheriff’s office. Jail staff administered naloxone. The patients were reportedly conscious while being transported to Providence Regional Medical Center Everett.

Five inmates have since been released from the hospital and returned to the jail, said Courtney O’Keefe, a spokesperson for the sheriff’s office, on Thursday.

The housing unit was locked down while the Snohomish Regional Drug Task Force investigated. Detectives determined the fentanyl was “brought inside the facility by an inmate.”

The sheriff’s office reported they do not know how the fentanyl was brought inside the facility and they were actively investigating.

“Fentanyl is a very tiny item, it can literally just be a powder,” Morris said. “Inmates are very inventive with how they bring things inside.”

Inmates who overdosed described the supplier as a “bald male with a beard,” according to a police report. They also told police he was in cell No. 36.

Investigators discovered two torn pieces of District Court paperwork, each with a “white powdery substance” or what appeared to be its residue, wrote detective Greg Mueller, a member of the county’s drug task force.

One paper said: “SIMS, JUS.” Detectives found a box of Kellogg’s crackers inside the suspect’s cell as well. Inside the box was the second torn page. It read, “TIN MICHAEL.”

Police confirmed the suspect was Justin Michael Sims and referred two charges of investigation of possession of a controlled substance inside a correctional facility, according to the sheriff’s office.

Sims had been transferred into that jail unit around 6:58 p.m. Wednesday — just a half-hour before the first report of an overdose. He had been booked into the jail a day earlier, when his bond was forfeited in a case of three counts of third-degree theft.

A DetectaChem Mobile Detect Strip indicated the substance was fentanyl, according to the detective’s report.

The weight of both pieces of paper with the residue on it was 22.9 grams, the detective noted. A standard single sheet of 8½-by-11-inch paper weighs about 5 grams.

Sims refused to show up to his bail hearing Thursday. Everett District Court Judge Anthony Howard found probable cause on the charges, as well as an additional charge of second-degree introducing contraband.

The judge set bail at $250,000.

Jonathan Tall: 425-339-3486;; Twitter: @EDHJonTall.

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