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Police: Deadly Opioid Disguised As Prescription Meds Causes 3 ODs

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – Police in southern Minnesota say a dangerous opioid disguised to look like prescription pain medication was responsible for three overdoses last weekend.

Authorities in Northfield responded to a report of two unresponsive adults Friday, Feb. 23. First responders administered an opioid overdose medication known as narcan or naloxone and transported both people to the hospital, where they recovered.

Sunday, responders again administered naloxone to an unresponsive male. That person was also hospitalized and he recovered.

Police said all three people ingested a similar drug – a small, round, blue pill with K9 stamped into it. According to police, the pills had been bought as "Oxy" – a common nickname for OxyContin, oxycodone or Percocet, all opioid-based pain medications.

Northfield police carfentanil pills
(credit: Northfield Police Department)

Test results released Friday show the pills actually contained carfentanil, an extremely potent opioid.

Friday afternoon, 22-year-old Joshua Edward Tarka was charged in connection with the overdoses. He faces three counts of great bodily harm caused by the distribution of drugs, one count of second degree drug sale, one count of third degree drug sale and two counts of fifth degree drug possession.

Multiple anonymous tipsters alerted police that Tarka was responsible for the disguised carfentanil. After getting the tips, police followed Tarka and a friend, later identified as Paul Brekkestran, drive around Northfield, making numerous stops.

Joshua Edward Tarka
(credit: Rice County)

When police pulled the two men over, Tarka told them, "All the stuff is in the backpack." A search of Tarka's backpack found marijuana, a digital scale with white residue on it and several plastic baggies.

In an interview with police, Tarka admitted selling marijuana.

In Tarka's wallet, police found $1,400 in cash and six pills identified as OxyContin and oxycodone. He told police he did not have any pills stamped K9, but said he knew those pills were deadly.

Tarka said he had taken one of the K9 pills before, but after taking one he disposed of the rest of the pills. He told police from whom he got the pills. Two of the people who overdosed told police Tarka sold them the pills. Tarka told police he only had five pills. The victims said he had "20 or 30" when he sold to them.

Tarka's bail was set at $500,000.

On Thursday, police in Mankato arrested another man in the case: 20-year-old Joshua Chlan. The Blue Earth County Sheriff's office says they received information from the Cannon River Drug Task Force about the Northfield case that connected to Chlan. Investigators found more blue pills at Chlan's home, which appeared to be Oxycodone but is also suspected to contain Carfentanil.

Chlan is facing two felony drug charges.


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