SANGAMON COUNTY, Ill. (WCIA) — Area law enforcement is sending a strong message to drug dealers. For the first time in recent years, they’re charging a person with drug induced homicide.
30-year old Justin Callarman, of Springfield, is facing up to 30-years in prison. Police say he gave heroin and fentanyl to a 23-year old man who later died. It was a long time coming for this case.
The victim’s name, which is not being released by law enforcement, overdosed on fentanyl-laced heroin in September. Callarman wasn’t arrested until this week. He’s now in custody until his court date.
The Sangamon County State’s Attorney says they have no plans of letting him off easy.
“This case is a tragic example of the incredible impact of illegal drug use in our community.”
What likely began as a routine drug deal is now a homicide case. Authorities say Callarman indirectly killed a man by giving him the deadly drug.
“The evidence was sufficient to charge this case and we intend to hold the defendant accountable for his actions which led to the death of the victim.”
State’s Attorney Dan Wright is charging Callarman with drug-induced homicide; a class X felony with a sentence of 15 – 30 years. The offense comes from a 1989 law which recently gained steam as the opioid epidemic spiraled.
“I think it’s a good law and we’ll enforce it to the maximum degree.”
Wright says he wants to send a strong message to everyone in the community. Still, some criminal justice advocates argue the punishment is too harsh.
Recently, state lawmakers passed rules to give people immunity if they call 911 during an overdose. Springfield’s fire chief encourages people to take that option to avoid jail time.
“Somebody’s down, call 911, we’ll figure it out when we get there.”
He’s worked in the community for more than 19-years and has seen the human toll.
“It’s an epidemic. It’s a known problem that there’s no easy fix.”
He says progress is being made. Thanks to Narcan, first responders and others can stop an overdose in its tracks. But, with stronger drugs like fentanyl hitting the streets, he says one dose may not do it. It’s another reason why 911 should always be the go-to.
Authorities say this is the first drug-induced homicide charge in about five years for the county. There are at least four other cases in Central Illinois: Effingham, Mattoon, Bloomington and Peoria.
If you find yourself with someone overdosed on drugs, it’s important to remember lawmakers passed the good Samaritan law.
It means, if you call 911 or take someone to an emergency room for an overdose, both the person seeking help and the person overdosing are protecting from being charged or prosecuted for felonies.
However, you can’t have more than three grams of heroin or morphine or 40 grams of prescription opioids.