Vancouver Police launch investigation into unexplained drug poisoning

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Vancouver Police have launched an investigation to determine how a man fell mysteriously ill from fentanyl poisoning following a brief encounter with a stranger in Chinatown last week.

The investigation is focused on how the 56-year-old man, who does not use drugs, was exposed, and whether a criminal offence occurred.

“This is a troubling case, and we don’t yet have all the answers, but some of our most experienced people are now leading this investigation,” says Constable Tania Visintin. “We have heard from community members who are troubled by this incident. We want everyone to know that we’re working hard to find out what happened.”

The man fell ill while walking on East Pender Street, between Main and Columbia Street, around 9 p.m. on Wednesday, November 22. He had a brief encounter with a person before going into medical distress and collapsing.

VPD officers working nearby came to the man’s aid. He was given naloxone by paramedics and taken to hospital for treatment for fentanyl poisoning. The man speaks only Cantonese, and at the time there was nothing to indicate that a crime may have occurred.

VPD’s Major Crime Section later launched an investigation after receiving additional information from one of the man’s family members, who thought he may have been intentionally exposed to fentanyl by the stranger.

“We know this man is not a drug user and that he did not intentionally consume fentanyl on the night he fell ill,” adds Constable Visintin. “We are working with the man, his family, and medical professionals to understand how lethal drugs entered his system. We have not ruled out the possibility he was intentionally exposed to fentanyl.”

Investigators from VPD’s Major Crime Section have spent days reviewing evidence and retracing the man’s steps from the night he fell ill. Investigators have now identified the stranger with whom the man had a brief encounter prior to falling ill.

The man has recovered and the investigation is ongoing.

Anyone with information is asked to contact VPD’s Major Crime Section at 604-717-2541.