The San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Department recently busted a pair of suspected drug traffickers and confiscated enough fentanyl to kill every resident of SLO County twice over.
The case began in April, according to a news release by Sheriff’s spokesman Tony Cipolla.
“Members of the Sheriff’s Gang Task Force were tracking a wanted felon,” Cipolla said, “31-year-old Julian Ackerman of Coalinga, who was suspected of driving into San Luis Obispo County with a large amount of narcotics.”
On April 22, he said, deputies spotted the suspect’s car on Hwy 101 with two people inside — Ackerman in the passenger seat and a young woman driving.
“Deputies attempted to pull the vehicle over on northbound Highway 101 just north of Highway 166,” Cipolla said. “The car came to a complete stop on the shoulder of the highway just south of the Tefft Street off ramp in Nipomo.”
Deputies were questioning the occupants when the driver sped away. A chase ensued that left the highway at Tefft Street. They didn’t get very far.
“Deputies located and stopped the vehicle at E. Tefft Street and Beechnut Street in Nipomo,” Cipolla said. “The female driver, identified as 20-year-old Zoe Rutledge of Nipomo, was detained. Ackerman fled the vehicle.”
The Sheriff’s Special Operations Unit arrived and began searching for Ackerman, who was spotted in the front yard of a nearby house. He reportedly took off running again into a field near East Branch Street, Nipomo. He was caught and placed under arrest.
Cipolla said deputies found a backpack in that field that Ackerman allegedly tried to ditch.
“That same backpack had been spotted in the vehicle that Ackerman had fled,” Cipolla said. Inside, they reportedly found a kilo — about 2.2 pounds — of fentanyl worth an estimated $25,000.
“Or if sold by the gram at $125 a gram,” Cipolla said, “that would be worth $125,000.”
Ackerman was charged with suspicion of possession of a controlled substance for sale, transporting a controlled substance for sale, and resisting a peace officer.
Rutledge was charged with suspicion of attempting to evade a peace officer in a reckless manner, Cipolla said. The amount of drugs might not sound like much weight, but fentanyl is a horse of another color.
“According to the Drug Enforcement Administration, a lethal dose of fentanyl is two milligrams,” Cipolla said. “So one kilo of pure fentanyl contains approximately 500,000 lethal doses.”
There are roughly 235,000 total residents in SLO County.
Fentanyl originates in China where the basic chemicals are manufactured by criminal organizations that smuggle it into Mexico, where drug cartels press it into pills or package it for smuggling into the U.S. over the Southern Border.
In 2021, over 107,000 people in the U.S. died of drug overdoses, according to government statistics. The poison was mainly fentanyl, with heroin and methamphetamine also taking a toll.
And heroin and meth are being laced with fentanyl, which is highly addictive and deadly.
The overdose stats do not include the roughly 20,000-plus people who overdose but are saved with Narcan, a nasal spray that immediately counteracts opioid toxicity and can save a person’s life if administered in time.