Miami police need witnesses in case of 10-year-old boy believed dead from fentanyl

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Alton Banks spent the afternoon at Gibson Park pool in Overtown on June 23. He left around 5 p.m.

About an hour later, the 10-year-old boy arrived home on the 100 block of Northwest 13th Court, just a few blocks away.

During that narrow time frame, Miami’s police chief said on Thursday, police believe that Alton somehow ingested the potent painkiller fentanyl, an illegal drug that along with heroin has been killing addicts in South Florida and across the country.

Detectives believe Alton may have unwittingly ingested the drug — but exactly how remains a mystery.

“If someone was in the area on June 23, between 5 and 6 p.m., and saw Alton Banks and who he came into contact with, we need that information,” Chief Rodolfo Llanes said Thursday at a press conference.

The police chief joined Miami Fire-Rescue brass and other city leaders to plead for help from the public, days after the boy’s death became worldwide news. As first reported by the Miami Herald, a preliminary toxicology report completed last week showed that a mix of fentanyl and heroin may have killed the boy, making him among the youngest victims of Florida’s opioid crisis.

His death comes amid a staggering opioid crisis that has wreaked havoc across the country, with hundreds of South Florida drug users fatally overdosing in recent years. Illegal fentanyl and some of its synthetic cousins can be so powerful that just a speck — breathed in, snorted or injected — can kill.

Alton was a fifth-grader at Frederick Douglass Elementary who wanted to be an engineer and loved the Carolina Panthers football team.

Police say Alton didn’t appear to be sick at the pool, located at 401 NW 12th St. He may have walked down Northwest 12th Street before heading north on Northwest First Court to get home.

Gibson Park Pool 0703 DB 4

Police believe Alton Banks was exposed to fentanyl shortly after leaving Gibson Park’s pool in Overtown on the evening of June 23.

DANIEL BOCK FOR THE MIAMI HERALD

Detectives don’t have evidence to suggest that Alton came into contact with drugs at his home, authorities said. The boy vomited shortly after he arrived at home, and was later found unconscious. Just after 9 p.m., the family called Miami Fire-Rescue and he was rushed to Jackson Memorial Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

He walked home in poverty-stricken Overtown, which is known across Florida as a hot zone for heroin and fentanyl sales, and has seen the most drug overdoses on the streets.

“He was out playing, like we want all our children to do. It’s unclear whether [the exposure to drugs] was at the pool or on the walk home,” Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle told the Herald earlier this week. “We’re anxiously hoping that someone comes forward to help us solve this horrific death.”

The Miami-Dade Medical Examiner’s Office is doing more testing, with a final toxicology report still to come.

The effects of fentanyl and its variants have been widely chronicled, devastating communities across the nation and in Florida, where a crackdown on prescription painkillers such as Oxycodone is believed to have led to the spike in heroin and opioid abuse.

The drug is powerful enough that the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and police departments have warned officers about even touching the drug. Last fall, three Broward police dogs got sick after sniffing the drug during a federal raid.

But fentanyl can take up to 24 hours to fully absorb through the skin, said Miami Fire-Rescue Deputy Chief Craig Radelman. “Absorption through the skin is a very, very slow method,” he told reporters.

The boy could have had it on his skin when he accidentally breathed it through his mouth or nose.

“We don’t have any working theories on how he did that,” Llanes said.

Even if Miami homicide detectives can prove the source of the drugs, holding someone responsible for his death may he tough.

The Florida Legislature passed a law this year to make it possible to charge dealers with murder if they provide a fatal dose of fentanyl or drugs mixed with fentanyl. But the new law doesn’t go into effect until Oct. 1.

Anyone with information on the death of Alton Banks can call Miami-Dade CrimeStoppers at 305-471-TIPS.


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