By Jennifer Mayerle

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Every day, those on the front lines of the opioid crisis work to prevent deaths by stopping sales of the deadly drugs. Even in extreme cold, the DEA task force braved subzero temperatures Wednesday and executed a search warrant. They said they had to move in to keep the community safe.

In the pre-dawn hours, WCCO was with DEA agents as they prepared to hit a Plymouth apartment thought to be a distribution site for the opioids heroin and fentanyl.

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The task force needed to move.

“Because of the danger to community…we had to go and render the site safe and secure,” DEA Assistant Special Agent in Charge Ken Solek said.

To protect themselves, agents wear special jumpsuits.

“So that materials don’t penetrate, meaning powders, liquids. It kind of repels a lot of that it gives them a basic level of protection should they encounter something inside,” Solek said.

Aside from the protective gear, agents brought in plenty of Narcan so they’re prepared for whatever danger they might encounter.

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“As we know fentanyl is extremely dangerous, it’s often fatal,” Solek said. “It’s an opioid similar to heroin but it’s about 100 times more potent than heroin. When you’re buying fentanyl on the street or if you’re buying heroin that’s laced with fentanyl, the potential for an overdose is very high.”

So is the risk to law enforcement. Once agents secure a site, they wear space-like outfits during a raid as an added layer of protection. The respirator masks ensure agents don’t ingest powder that becomes airborne. The blue tarp is part of the decontamination site.

The danger they face translates to the community.

“With fentanyl, with any powder, it could get on your clothing,” Solek said. “You walk out of the apartment, you walk down the hallway, all of a sudden that powder drops off your clothing, it causes a risk of potential exposure for an innocent bystander that’s just walking by.”

It’s why DEA agents say they collect evidence to get opioids off our streets.

“It’s a ticking time bomb that could go off at any time depending upon how it’s ingested or who’s exposed to it,” Solek said.

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Right now, it’s unclear if any arrests were made on Wednesday. The raid was part of an active case. WCCO will work to learn more about it and will bring you the details when we can.

Jennifer Mayerle