Police Chief overdosed on drugs taken from department evidence room

The fentanyl and cocaine were reportedly being held as evidence in other cases when Hughes illegally obtained them.

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According to investigators, an Ohio police chief who recently died of an accidental fentanyl overdose allegedly stole the drugs from his department’s evidence room. Although the investigation remains ongoing, officials suspect the police chief took drugs that were possibly evidence in other cases.

On May 25, Kirkersville Police Chief James Hughes Jr. was found unresponsive in the bathroom of his home at Reynoldsburg, Ohio. Hughes became police chief on March 13, less than a week after former chief Jeff Finley resigned while accusing Kirkersville Mayor Terry Ashcraft of creating a “hostile work environment.”

On July 13, the Franklin County Coroner’s Office released a report stating that Hughes died from an acute intoxication by fentanyl. The coroner’s report indicated that three syringes were found with two testing positive for fentanyl. A sandwich bag was also recovered and tested positive for cocaine.

On Wednesday, Reynoldsburg Police Department Lt. Ron Wright confirmed that Hughes allegedly stole the lethal drugs from his department’s evidence room, according to the ongoing investigation into his death. The fentanyl and cocaine were reportedly being held as evidence in other cases when Hughes illegally obtained them.

“It’s kind of gone beyond our level. You’re talking about another agency’s property room,” Wright recently told The Newark Advocate. “We think the state should probably intervene.”

Referring to Hughes’ access to the department evidence room, Wright added, “There appeared to be some practices happening out there that probably someone from the state AG’s office should probably look into.”

Wright plans to contact the Ohio Attorney General’s Office when the Reynoldsburg department closes the case within the next two weeks and hopes a state-level investigator will be assigned to review the practices and procedures at the Kirkersville Police Department.

Hughes was 35 years old at the time of his death. He left behind a wife and three young children.

A new police chief has not yet been named.

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