After Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed multiple laws to combat the fentanyl crisis, the Fort Worth Police Department says it is planning to “aggressively” pursue arrests in fentanyl deaths. 

In June, Abbott signed four pieces of legislation, including House Bill 6, to combat the fentanyl crisis taking place in Texas. The law creates a criminal offense of murder for supplying fentanyl that results in death. It also enhances the criminal penalty for the manufacturing or delivery of fentanyl. 

“The fentanyl epidemic has taken far too many innocent lives, but thanks to the work by brave parents and loved ones, like those here today, we have made Texans aware of this crisis,” said Abbott during the signing. “These four laws will forever change Texas through new protections that will help save lives.”

Now, as fentanyl-related cases increase in Tarrant County, the department says residents can expect to see more prosecutions. 

Sergeant Benjamin Scott Banes with Fort Worth PD told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram that the department had responded to an average of three fatal fentanyl poisonings weekly in 2023 alone.

Before HB 6 took effect in September, Fort Worth PD was only able to charge suspects with serious bodily injury in drug cases. However, Banes says the new law “finally gives law enforcement something to work with.”

Although there are a few kinks in the process of prosecuting suspects, Fort Worth PD has made its first fentanyl murder arrest.

On December 14, a grand jury indicted Jacob Lindsay on a murder charge in connection to the death of Brandon Harrison, who died from fentanyl and methamphetamine toxicity. 

Additionally, in November, the Tarrant County District Attorney’s Office created a Narcotics Unit and is preparing to prosecute more murder charges when fentanyl poisoning deaths occur. 

However, Tarrant County isn’t the first to start a narcotics unit. In April, the Harris County District Attorney’s Office created a Narcotics unit as more deaths were resulting from the deadly drug. 

District Attorney Kim Ogg said the goal of the new unit is to bring felony charges, including murder charges, for people who supply the drug. awq

“We have more people dying of this than murder,” Ogg said, per The Houston Chronicle. “It’s time that we took strong action.”

In 2022, the Harris County Medical Examiner’s Office determined that nearly half of the 1,096 drug overdose deaths in the county involved fentanyl. 

In Texas, overdose deaths involving fentanyl rose from 891 cases in 2020 to 2,189 in 2022, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS). 

In July, as a part of Abbott’s “One Pill Kills” campaign, he announced the launch of the Texas fentanyl data dashboard that can be viewed from DSHS. With the new database, residents will be able to access information that includes fentanyl-related deaths from 2014 to 2023 and allow viewing over time by demographics or geography.

“More than five Texans die every day from deadly fentanyl, and Texas continues to ramp up our efforts to combat the growing fentanyl crisis plaguing our state and the nation,” said Abbott. “Texans must come together to raise awareness of this deadly opioid to our family, friends, and communities, and the data published on this website will help Texans lead the fight against this deadly drug.”

Emily Medeiros

Emily graduated from the University of Oklahoma majoring in Journalism. She is excited to use her research and writing skills to report on important issues around Texas.