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DIGGING DEEPER: CNA reopens 2017 drug overdose case

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TUCSON – There was an alarming number of opioid deaths in Pima County in 2019.

It averaged to about one person dying nearly every day of the year due to drug overdoses.

One mother saw the Digging Deeper Team’s report and contacted us about her son, who died in 2017.

She claimed Tucson police didn’t do enough to properly investigate the case.

The Digging Deeper Team obtained the police report from Oct. 22, 2017.

The case summary wasn’t even one page long. The report said, Beau Brown was last seen alive at 4:30 p.m. and earlier in the day he was high on methamphetamine.

The 30- year old's body was found at an apartment complex near Grant and Oracle roads.

The report said the people who lived there had put him into bed and were checking on him every half hour.

His mother, who asked us to conceal her identity, told News 4 Tucson, she wasn’t buying the story.

She claimed her son was no angel but he had been drug-free for nearly a year and the woman he was with earlier that day told her, “She never witnessed him doing drugs, he didn't act like he was on drugs.  They went to eat and they had a little confrontation with the man I believe sold him the drugs and they were irritated with Beau and she never saw him after that.”

However, he did send her a text, “And told her I’ll be right there because they had plans to go to the swap meet afterwards.”

The report stated at 6 p.m. the man who was with Brown noticed he had turned blue and wasn't breathing. He got a neighbor who performed CPR while he called 9-1-1.

The report also said police responded at 8:38 p.m. 

Yet, the man who was with Brown told officers he saw him at 6:00 p.m. turn blue and wasn’t breathing.

So what happened during the 2 hours and 38 minutes?

Brown's body was found outside of the apartment.

His mother asked why police hadn't checked the inside?

“The police told me they had no reason to check the apartment due to the fact that my son's body was pulled out of the apartment to try and resuscitate him,” she said.

The police report also said, "…there were no signs of foul play or suspicious circumstances."

The mother added, “I don't think the procedure to check on his death was followed.”

She was right because at that time police did not investigate drug overdoses. 

There had not been a successful prosecution of a case in 30 years.

Counter Narcotics Alliance Captain John Leavitt told News 4 Tucson, during that time period  “… some people believing the person made a decision to use a drug that resulted in their death.”

That all changed one month before Beau Brown's death.

Tucson Police Department Captain John Leavitt said he and a DEA official met with Arizona police chiefs: “Due to the rising threats of the opioid epidemic faced or presented to the community that we do intensive investigations on overdose deaths.”

Three months later, policies and procedures were in place that  CNA would take the lead in investigating. 

“Today's police officers, especially today's narcotics officers, do view the people who suffer from substance disorder as being victims,” said Leavitt.

The Digging Deeper team started asking questions.

Police now said they were re-opening the case. 

“I'm optimistic that we will be able to bring some justice in this case we're going to do our very best to do that.”

The autopsy report showed Beau Brown died of a methamphetamine and heroin overdose.

Captain Leavitt said they currently have cases pending in the courts and have successfully prosecuted cases against drug dealers that have resulted in the death of people. 

Brown’s mother has already met with a detective.  She told us she is thankful CNA is investigating.

She added she wants to know if the death of her son was an accidental overdose or murder.

She believes this also sends a message to the drug dealers.

For more information, you can visit the following websites:

Lupita Murillo

Lupita Murillo is an investigative reporter. She is part of the Digging Deeper team that uncovers important issues focusing on crime that affects the community.

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