Ohio Man Arrested In Connection With West Virginia Overdose Wave

By Seth Ferranti 09/01/16

Bruce Lamar Griggs was charged with distribution of heroin that led to 27 overdoses in a four-hour span. 

Ohio Man Arrested In Connection With West Virginia Overdose Wave
Bruce Lamar Griggs Photo via RT/YouTube

Last month, Huntington, West Virginia was on high alert after 27 heroin overdoses occurred in just a four-hour span. Now, authorities have zeroed in on the man they believe was responsible for the mass overdose, which included one death. Last Thursday, Bruce Lamar Griggs of Akron, Ohio, was charged in federal court with distribution of heroin.

Authorities were first alerted to the overdoses on the afternoon of August 15. According to Cabell County authorities, all of the ODs happened within a mile and a half radius, leading them to believe they were caused by a single source. Griggs was apprehended last Thursday in Tallmadge, Ohio. After waiving extradition, he will be transported to West Virginia to face the criminal charges, according to the Huntington Herald-Dispatch

"Hopefully it sends a message far and wide that we are not a place to come and sell drugs," said Huntington Police Chief Joe Ciccarelli. "You're going to pay the price when you do that.”

Huntington FBI Drug Task Force agent Paul Hunter wrote in an affidavit that Griggs' name came to the forefront of the investigation after he was identified by several of the overdose victims. And security camera footage showed Griggs at the Marcum Terrace housing projects, in the area where most of the ODs ocurred.

"The first step is what we do in every open case, is we interview the victims to attempt to learn from there who it is that supplied them with heroin," Ciccarelli told the Herald-Dispatch. "In this instance, the officer did a very good job because a number of victims identified 'Benz' as the person who had supplied them with heroin. Within a few hours, we had turned 'Benz' into the true name, Griggs.” A lot of drug dealers typically go by a nom de guerre to protect their identity from law enforcement.

Authorities in Huntington think Griggs might be responsible for more ODs in the surrounding region. "Well, certainly the fact that Mr. Griggs is from Akron would lead one to believe there may be some connection with those incidents," Ciccarelli said. "It's too early to tell.”

As Akron, where Griggs is from, recovers from its own wave of suspected carfentanil overdoses, this out-of-town venture could have been necessitated by law enforcement scrutiny. But at this time, it's too early to tell if the OD incidents are related.

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After landing on the US Marshals Top-15 Most Wanted list and being sentenced to a 25 year sentence in federal prison for a first-time, nonviolent LSD offense, Seth built a writing and journalism career from his cell block. His raw portrayals of prison life and crack era gangsters graced the pages of Don DivaHoopshype and VICE. From prison he established Gorilla Convict, a true-crime publisher and website that documents the stories that the mainstream media can’t get with books like Prison Stories and Street Legends. His story has been covered by The Washington PostThe Washington Times, and Rolling Stone.

Since his release in 2015 he’s worked hard to launch GR1ND Studios, where true crime and comics clash. GR1ND Studios is bringing variety to the comic shelf by way of the American underground. These groundbreaking graphic novels tell the true story of prohibition-era mobsters, inner-city drug lords, and suburban drug dealers. Seth is currently working out of St. Louis, Missouri, writing for The FixVICEOZY, Daily Beast, and Penthouse and moving into the world of film. Check out his first short, Easter Bunny Assassin at sethferranti.com. You can find Seth on Linkedin or follow him on Twitter.