‘One pill can kill’ | New Braunfels PD sends out community alert as Austin-Travis County grapples with suspected opioid outbreak

New Braunfels PD’s Captain Michael Penshorn is urging parents to talk with their children about the dangers of unknown pills and medications.

NEW BRAUNFELS, Texas — The New Braunfels Police Department is warning the community about the dangers of opioids in light of dozens of suspected overdoses reported in Austin earlier this week.

Authorities responded to more than 50 overdose cases over Monday and Tuesday. At least eight people have died, according to Austin-Travis County Emergency Medical Services. 

Austin police suspect fentanyl is the drug at the center of this deadly outbreak. 

“Austin’s a really close area to us. A lot of the drugs do follow the IH-35 corridor so it’s really just a matter of time before whatever type of drugs these were would make their way to this community,” said Captain Michael Penshorn of New Braunfels PD. 

Fentanyl is the leading cause of death among Americans ages 18-49, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

The synthetic opioid remains 50 times stronger than heroin and 100 times more powerful than morphine. 

New Braunfels PD urges parents to speak with their children about the consequences of taking unknown pills, which could be laced with illicit narcotics such as fentanyl. 

Captain Penshorn stressed it’s important people don’t accept pills or medications from anywhere other than a doctor or regulated pharmacy.  

“A lot of times it’s the fentanyl that’s in them that is deadly. And they may be thinking that they’re taking it to just feel a little bit better. If you take one pill it may end up killing you and that’s something that people really need to be aware of,” Penshorn said. 

Libby Pender’s fight for justice and spreading awareness began the day her middle son died of fentanyl poisoning almost two years ago. 

Pender said her 38-year-old son John Salem was about to sign the biggest business deal of his sales career. On May 10, 2022, he didn’t wake up. Pender said Salem purchased what he thought was Xanax from a dealer in Austin. She’s made several trips to Austin for hearings on the man she hopes is held accountable for Salem’s death. 

“Every day I relive, my son relives, finding him lifeless in his bed,” Pender said. “The dealer that provided my son the fake pills was arrested, he’s been arrested for second degree felony, manslaughter. However, it’s been a little frustrating because his bond was set so low. He’s been out on bond for months and months.”

While she waits for justice, Pender hopes people in New Braunfels and elsewhere take the police department’s warning seriously.  

 “I think it’s time for the New Braunfels community to wake up. One pill can kill,” Pender said. “The prosecutors, the judges, the law enforcement all have got to start cracking down on these dealers, putting them behind bars and getting them off the streets so that they can’t sell this anymore, they can’t sell it on Instagram.”  

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