‘This is what’s poisoning us:’ Osceola sheriff gives update on drug trafficking arrests, deaths

Marcos Lopez says county has seen 142 drug overdose deaths in 2022

OSCEOLA COUNTY, Fla. – Osceola County Sheriff Marcos Lopez on Thursday provided an update on the number of drug overdoses and deaths within the community in 2022.

Lopez said the medical examiner’s office reported about 142 overdose deaths within the county in 2022. Additionally, the sheriff said within that same time frame, deputies distributed Narcan, a drug that helps in the event of an overdose, to about 74 people.

“This is what’s poisoning us and killing our communities,” Lopez said. “Every community has different issues. These are the issues in Osceola County.”

During the news briefing, he called out the state several times for dropping or lowering charges for drug trafficking crimes in the county.

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“The Legislature wants traffickers in prison. Law enforcement work our traffickers in prison. And I know our community wants these traffickers in prison,” Lopez said. “Our detectives are constantly in contact with the state... I don’t understand what the issue is.”

When asked if he’s spoken to Orange-Osceola State Attorney Monique Worrell about this, Lopez responded he has not, citing that out of the 73 drug trafficking cases in the county this year, zero out of the 29 that went through prosecution have received the minimum mandatory sentencing.

“I don’t think its going to be effective me having a conversation with (the state) about this,” the sheriff said. “It’s a pattern and someone needs to take some action on this.”

Comparatively, in 2021, Lopez said out of approximately 50 drug trafficking cases, the five that got submitted to the state received the minimum mandatory sentencing.

“I’m a Democrat. I’m a constitutional officer. In my responsibility, when I swore to the oath, I don’t who you are, what color you are, where you’re from, is to put you in jail. My community has been poisoned by this garbage in 2021, like I said, in 2022. We’re seeing a pattern from the state and it needs to be resolved one way or another,” the sheriff said.

Worrell responded to the news briefing with the following statement.

“Today’s press conference with Osceola County Sheriff Marcos Lopez was filled with inaccuracies and misinformation and serves no other reason than to perpetuate a false, collaborative narrative being presented by Gov. Ron DeSantis, Sen. Rick Scott and others that my office doesn’t prosecute cases.

As I have said on numerous occasions, nothing could be further from the truth.

We are currently compiling all data relative to drug trafficking prosecutions handled by my office in 2022. We will send all information to the media as soon as it's compiled.

The prosecutors in this office work tirelessly to protect the community and keep our residents safe. Their mission is to hold those who violate the law accountable within the confines of the law, in accordance with our ethical obligations as prosecutors. They do not deserve to be woven into false narratives surrounding “policies” that simply do not exist.

There are many nuances involved in the prosecution of criminal cases, and while it’s not easy to create splashy headlines while describing the detail that goes into the work that we do, adhering to the rule of law is our number one priority.”

Orange-Osceola State Attorney Monique Worrell

The news briefing comes after building tension between Worrell and the Orange County Sheriff’s Office and Orlando Police Department came to a head Wednesday at a news briefing about charges being dropped in connection with a fatal shooting outside Jones High School last year.

During the update Wednesday, Worrell said there wasn’t enough evidence to build a case against a 17-year-old boy deputies arrested in connection with the death of 19-year-old Gamaine Patrick Brown, eliciting criticisms drawn from both the state and law enforcement.

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About the Author:

Samantha started at WKMG-TV in September 2020. Before joining the News 6 team, Samantha was a political reporter for The Villages Daily Sun and has had freelance work featured in the Evansville Courier-Press and The Community Paper. When not writing, she enjoys travelling and performing improv comedy.