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Toronto drug squad officer dies of a fentanyl overdose, police say


TORONTO – An officer with the Toronto police drug squad died of a fentanyl overdose earlier this year, with the amount of the opioid found in his system being too much to have been from mere contact with the drug, the force said Thursday.

Const. Michael Thompson, 37, was found in medical distress at his home east of Toronto on April 10. He was rushed to hospital where he died three days later, Toronto police said in a statement on Thursday. He was single with no children.

Fentanyl, a synthetic opioid about 100 times stronger than morphine, is often combined with other drugs, including cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine. It has also been blamed for the growing overdose crisis across the country that officials say claimed the lives of more than 2,800 people last year.

“It is always a difficult time when we lose a member of the Toronto Police Service, regardless of the circumstances,” Deputy Chief James Ramer said in the statement. “It’s even more difficult when the circumstances of a specific loss leave us with more questions than answers.”

Toronto police spokesperson Meaghan Gray said Durham regional police and the Durham coroner conducted the investigation, notifying Toronto police of the cause of Thompson’s death in July.

She said Toronto police then launched an investigation, which included determining whether Thompson purchased the drugs on the street or took them from police exhibits.

“We weren’t able to answer that question and we may never be able to answer that question,” Gray said in an interview.

She said Toronto police also conducted multiple reviews on Toronto police’s wellness services. “We’ve also taken the step of asking our membership directly if they feel there is a gap in our services we make available to them and I think we’ll be looking to consider any and all changes that could hopefully prevent something like this from happening again,” Gray said.

Thompson’s death could affect some of the cases he worked on that are before the court, Gray said, adding that one is due to proceed Monday.

“I don’t know whether it will be the same outcome for all the cases he was involved in or whether it will be determined on a case by case basis, but I guess it will depend on cases themselves and to what extent Michael was involved in them and perhaps what stage in the justice system they are in,” she said. “Those are decisions that will be left up to the Crown.”

In his statement, Ramer called Thompson “a good police officer who was respected by his colleagues.”

“Our condolences remain with his colleagues, including the dedicated and professional members of the drug squad, Michael’s family and friends who have all been devastated by his passing,” he said.

Copyright (c) 2017 The Canadian Press