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April 20, 2018
GIBSONBURG - A Gibsonburg police officer gave himself naloxone Thursday night and was taken to the hospital by EMS after handling suspected drugs seized during a traffic stop.
Police Chief Paul Whitaker said Friday that Officer Michael Senyo, 34, a 10-year veteran of the department, conducted a traffic stop on South Main Street near Linden Avenue at 5:57 p.m. Thursday.
He said Senyo stopped the car because the driver had a suspended driver's license, and obtained the driver's consent to search the vehicle for drugs and contraband.
"He was wearing the department-approved and industry standard gloves," Whitaker said of Senyo.
Senyo wore nitrile surgical gloves for the search, during which he collected a straw that had white crystal residue on it, the chief said.
Whitaker said most U.S. police departments switched to nitrile gloves in 2017 after it was determined that rubber gloves do not protect from fentanyl.
Fentanyl, an opioid often used to cut or substitute for heroin and sold on the streets, can be 30 times to 50 times stronger than heroin.
When Senyo returned to police headquarters after the search, he became ill.
Whitaker said about an hour had elapsed between the time of the vehicle search and when Senyo started to feel ill.
Senyo experienced burning nostrils, dizziness, nausea, lightheadedness and a rapid heartbeat and contacted the dispatch center to request medical assistance, Whitaker said.
The officer then administered the anti-overdose drug naloxone to himself, according to Whitaker.
Senyo felt the symptoms he was experiencing may have been from an accidental contamination with something he encountered during the traffic stop and handling of evidence, Whitaker said.
Woodville Police, Sandusky County Sheriff's Deputy and Sandusky County EMS and
Gibsonburg Fire Department responded to the police station to assist the officer.
Whitaker said Senyo took off his nitrile gloves and placed them in his police vehicle after searching the suspect's car. The chief said his hypothesis is that Senyo may have contaminated himself by touching the outside of the plastic evidence bag with his bare hands, after removing the gloves.
Senyo was treated at ProMedica Memorial Hospital in Fremont and released Thursday night.
Whitaker said Senyo will remain on leave until he is cleared to return to duty. Sometimes exposure to a trace amount of an opioid can have a heightened physical effect on someone who is not a drug user, Whitaker said.
"It doesn't take much to get sick," Whitaker said.
He said he was thankful Senyo is okay and will be returning to work soon.
An investigation into the contamination has begun and the case is ongoing, Whitaker said.
The evidence collected during Senyo's vehicle search will be turned over to the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation crime lab in Bowling Green Monday.
Whitaker said it could be weeks or months before the lab determines what substance was on the straw seized in the search.
The driver was issued a citation, his license plate was confiscated, and the car was
Whitaker said the driver was released pending testing of the drug paraphernalia for controlled substances.
He said additional charges could be issued, depending on the results from BCI's crime lab analysis.
All of Gibsonburg's officers completed naloxone training in November through the Sandusky County Health Department and started carrying the medication, which is designed to reverse the effects of opioid overdoses.
"That training and that decision has definitely paid off," Whitaker said.
The police chief noted that Gibsonburg officers had used naloxone once before Senyo's use Thursday.
Whitaker said officers revived an overdose victim with naloxone in March just outside of Gibsonburg's corporate limits.