WICHITA FALLS (KFDX/KJTL) – In 2022, the deadly opioid crisis swept through our nation, and Wichita Falls was by no means spared.

In the year 2022, Fentanyl began impacting Wichita Falls rather quickly, and the reality is sad that this is only the beginning. In over a span of five months, 15 lives were taken.

“About two weeks ago, about 35 pounds [of fentanyl] was seized in Lawton, Oklahoma. How close is that to us?” Dobie Kosub, Chief Felony Prosecutor for Wichita County said.

In the span of just three days in September 2022, fentanyl claimed the lives of a 22-year-old MSU student, a 19-year-old girl, and the youngest victim, a 13-year-old boy in Wichita Falls alone.

Kaysen Villareal, the youngest victim of fentanyl went to a friend’s house one night but never came back. His mother had last heard from him around 11 p.m., but it wasn’t until an image of Villareal began circling social media that his family knew what had happened.

“He was just beginning his life, he was going to be 14 on October 7th, he doesn’t have that chance now, he was robbed of it,” Brandi Melo, Villareal’s mother said.

Alize Martinez lost her daughter, Sylvia Martinez, to a fentanyl overdose the same weekend Villareal died.

“It seems like it’s so much easier access, the 13-year-old boy, like how does a teenager get access of the Percocet, laced fentanyl, it’s killing our kids, and every week, it’s like two a month,” Martinez said.

To combat the battle with fentanyl in our community, the Wichita Falls Police Department touched on training again to make sure our officials were equipped, and law officials stepped in.

“Refreshed your training on it and the ideas on how to do it and how to investigate it,” Sgt. Charlie Eipper, Public Information Officer with the WFPD said.

We are going to target you, and if people overdose and we have the evidence that we need to make the case…that’s why that training was so important, on how to develop these types of cases, we are going to treat them as homicides, in the investigation phase, and in the prosecution phase,” John Gillespie, Wichita County’s District Attorney said.

Ingesting one pill could kill you, according to police. The struggle our community has been facing is fentanyl’s ability to disguise itself amongst common street drugs – so people are buying them unintentionally.

“It’s so scary because you, a child doesn’t know or a kid may not know what they’re getting with the pill. they think they’re getting Xanax that’s laced with fentanyl and can cause their lungs to stop working and can cause almost immediate death,” Gillespie said.

More than 50 arrests were made and 20 lives were claimed by this deadly drug in 2022 alone, numbers Wichita Falls residents hope to not see in 2023 as authorities continue to tackle the fentanyl crisis here at home.

Authorities want to remind local residents to say something if they see something, on behalf of themselves or someone else they may know who is involved in the fentanyl crisis.

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