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5 Things to Know: CMPD Launches Perplexing Anti-Fentanyl Campaign

...and four more stories from Nov. 5-11, 2023

A graphic that reads "No Cap, those pills are sus" with some images of pills as part of a fentanyl awareness campaign
One many graphics rolled out as part of CMPD’s anti-fentanyl campaign. (Courtesy of CMPD)

CMPD Launches Perplexing Anti-Fentanyl Campaign

Social media users were flummoxed on Thursday as the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department unveiled its new fentanyl awareness campaign, which aims to inform the public about a recent rise in overdose deaths. The department credits the spike in large part to the presence of fentanyl in “street pills,” or pills designed to look like common pharmaceutical drugs like Oxycodone, Percocet and Xanax.

The campaign targets youths in an over-the-top way, using slogans like “No cap, those pills are sus,” and “The only fenty we like is the beauty brand.” CMPD has reported a 20% increase in confirmed fatal overdoses in 2023 as compared to this time in 2022, totaling 179 deaths. The majority of these deaths (60%) are individuals under 40 years old.

It appears the department’s goal with this fentanyl awareness campaign was to simply get people to discuss it, even if most of that discussion was derisive, and they appear to have accomplished said goal. Their first tweet announcing the campaign with one of the accompanying graphics was seen 46,000 times within about 24 hours on Twitter. A tweet from WSOC reporter Hunter Sáenz depicting six of the department’s graphics had 341,000 views by Friday afternoon.

The campaign was announced simultaneously to the CMPD and the Union County Sheriff’s Office announcement of a joint narcotics operation that resulted in the reported seizure of several thousand fentanyl-laced pills and the arrest of two drug trafficking suspects in Monroe.

On Sept. 13, 2023, CMPD’s Vice Unit searched a suspected fentanyl lab and seized $120,000 worth of suspected fentanyl pills as well as three electric pill presses, the department claims. “Officers on scene wore HAZMAT suits and encountered large amounts of suspected fentanyl powder coating surfaces in the home,” the release read.

While inhalation of fentanyl powder is listed as a potential route of exposure by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), it is highly unlikely that exposure to fentanyl powder on the skin would cause any adverse reaction.

Though it’s a common misperception that skin exposure can lead to overdose — one spread by police departments and media outlets around the country — fentanyl can only be absorbed through the skin using prescription transdermal skin patches over the course of hours.

Satana Deberry to Challenge Jeff Jackson in NC AG Race

Durham County District Attorney Satana Deberry announced her candidacy for North Carolina Attorney General on Friday, making her the most formidable Democratic primary opponent for U.S. Rep. Jeff Jackson, who announced his candidacy for the open seat in October.

Deberry came out on the offensive, telling WFAE, “I think there are people out there who want to see a ticket with an attorney general who knows what they are doing. Someone who is a serious lawyer. I’m a serious lawyer and a serious person — not a national social media following.”

Deberry was referencing Jackson’s massive following on social media, where he regularly posts breakdown videos tackling topics in the news cycle from a behind-the-scenes vantage point. Deberry’s attack echoed that of many of Jackson’s Republican opponents past and present, including current NC AG candidate Dan Bishop, who in October released a statement calling his opponent a “TikToker.”

Satana Deberry wearing a black jacket over a red collared shirt in a courtroom
Satana Deberry (Photo courtesy of Satana Deberry campaign for DA, 2022)

Before taking office as Durham County DA in 2019, Deberry served as a criminal defense attorney in her hometown of Hamlet, general counsel for the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, and executive director of the nonprofit North Carolina Housing Coalition.

Her 2022 re-election campaign website states, “Throughout her career, Deberry has worked to dismantle systems that restrict the lives of poor people, families, communities of color, and other marginalized and underrepresented groups.”

“My lived experience makes me a better candidate,” Deberry told WFAE, which broke the story on Friday.

Brooks Sandwich House Property Sold

Brooks’ Sandwich House, an iconic burger joint that has operated in NoDa since 1973, went up for sale on Tuesday, as first reported by Charlotte Magazine, then sold just two days later.

Dec. 9 will mark four years since co-owner Scott Brooks was shot and killed in a robbery while opening the eatery early on a winter morning in 2019. Since then, the cash-only, walk-up restaurant has scaled back its operations.

Hungry customers stand in line outside a small red building waiting to place their orders
Customers line up to place their lunchtime orders at Brooks’ Sandwich House in NoDa in 2022. (Photo by Grant Baldwin)

Younger members of the family had begun to take a larger role in the business, as Scott’s niece Lauren Brooks Thorp told Queen City Nerve in 2022 that they had plans to transition Brooks’ Sandwich House from a lunch take-out to a nighttime hangout, extending their hours and adding alcohol to the menu, though it doesn’t appear those plans will come to fruition.

It’s unclear at this time if owner Scott’s brother David or younger members of the family plan to continue the Brooks’ legacy at a new location, start a food truck under the family business name or hang it up altogether. It has also not yet been reported how much the property sold for. It was recently valued at $2 million by Mecklenburg County, though it’s likely David Brooks, Scott’s brother and co-owner, received much more than that.

John Autry Set to Retire After Current Term

Longtime local and state representative John Autry announced Thursday that he will retire next year rather than seek reelection for his current seat in the NC House of Representatives. The Democratic state rep was first elected to the North Carolina General Assembly in 2016 after being elected to three terms as the Charlotte City Council rep for District 5 in east Charlotte.

N.C. Rep John Autry
N.C. Rep. John Autry (far left) joins Robert Dawkins on an episode of Queen City Nerve’s ‘Nooze Hounds’ podcast in 2020. (Photo by Ryan Pitkin)

Prior to joining council, Autry served five years on the Mecklenburg Soil & Water Conservation District Board of Supervisors. He has been a fierce advocate for progressive causes locally and statewide, and told WFAE on Thursday that working from the minority side in the NCGA for so long has felt like “you get your teeth kicked in every 20 minutes.”

In his announcement, Autry said he looks forward to spending all his time with his wife Rebecca, making a dent in that “honey do” list and watching their grandchildren grow up.

EPA Could Block Wastewater Import to NC

The federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is reviewing its previous authorization of imports of GenX wastewater from the Netherlands to Chemours’ Fayetteville Works plant in North Carolina, according to an EPA official.

The authorization was first reported by NC Newsline in October. You can read Lisa Sorg’s follow-up reporting from Tuesday here.

In a statement on Tuesday, Gov. Roy Cooper urged the EPA to block the wastewater importation, citing issues with Per- and Polyfluorinated Substances, aka PFAS.

“It is unacceptable for North Carolinians to bear the risks associated with importing millions of pounds of GenX from other countries for disposal in our air, land and water. Under the Biden Administration, the EPA has been a vital partner in our efforts to learn more about these chemicals and protect the health of our communities and we will continue to encourage them to take action,” the statement read.

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