In a First for Santa Barbara County, 34-Year-Old Man Charged with Murder by Fentanyl

Overdose Victim’s Body Was Discovered Behind Building on 100 Block of State Street in April

Pictured above is a lethal dose of fentanyl for most people next to a penny for scale. | Credit: United States Drug Enforcement Administration

Santa Barbara Police arrested Dillon James Joseph Johnson, 34, on September 1 on murder and numerous felony narcotics charges stemming from the fentanyl-induced overdose death of a 30-year-old male whose body was discovered behind a building on the 100 block of State Street on April 29. 

This is the first time anyone has been charged with murder in connection with a fentanyl overdose in Santa Barbara County. “It was a first,” stated Sgt. Ethan Ragsdale of the SBPD. “It’s part of our response to the pandemic of fentanyl overdoses.” 

Johnson — described in police documents as a “transient” — was arrested on the 7100 block of Hollister Avenue after a search warrant had been executed on his person and premises. Ragsdale said enough narcotics — including fentanyl — had been found to substantiate a charge of possession with intent to sell. He was booked at the Santa Barbara County Jail with bail set at $1 million.

Fentanyl is notoriously more potent and deadly than other opioids and is frequently added to other drugs such as cocaine or methamphetamine. It’s also relatively cheap; half a gram typically sells for $50 to $60.

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