White powder numbs Campbell police officers’ faces, hands

Local News

Four Campbell police officers were hospitalized after coming into contact with an unknown powdery substance while booking an inmate Friday afternoon. 

Inmates don’t typically have much contact with the outside – but Friday, one inmate took her chance with a drug handoff during a short window where she did have time, in the courtroom. We spoke with the Campbell Police lieutenant about how that handoff landed four police officers in the hospital being decontaminated.

Surveillance video shows a man, who was sitting in the courtroom, trying to hand a bag containing two pills to an inmate.

Officers identified the man as Christopher Patton, who is the boyfriend of the inmate, Jennifer Stitzel.

“Every once in a while, we’ll try to get someone trying to pass something to an inmate in court,” Lt. Kevin Sferra said. “We try to keep them separated as much as possible. Sometimes they have to pass paperwork back and forth for bond and things like that but we try to limit it as much as possible.”

Officers spotted the handoff and chased after Patton, who left the courtroom and tried to drive away under a suspended license. 

During Patton’s booking police searched his belongings. They found a white powdery substance on his driver’s license. 

“Four officers ended up coming into contact with and immediately started to have symptoms of nausea, numbness tingling in their hands and face,” Sferra said.

Sferra said there are several ways the officers could have been affected by the powder just by being near it.

“Powder, it can go airborne so it could’ve easily got on their skin, just being in the room or around it. The risk with fentanyl and all these other drugs, small — very small — amounts can affect a large amount of people very quickly and have adverse effects.”

Hazmat and an ambulance were called to decontaminate the officers and then take them to the hospital. 

“All their guns, radio all the stuff like that had to be wiped down with alcohol pads,” he said.

All four officers are okay and expected to be released from the hospital. 

Patton is charged with illegal conveyance, possession, and driving under a suspended license. 

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