SOLEDAD, Calif. (KION) Soledad police arrested a man on multiple gun and drug-related charges, and they are investigating whether the fentanyl he allegedly had is linked to overdoses in the area.
"Within the last year, our overdoses have skyrocketed. We've been seeing an increase of them. So that's why we started this investigation," said Detective Gustavo Gomez, of the Soledad Police Department.
Police said the search warrants were served at around 6 a.m. Thursday by officers with Soledad Police, Salinas Valley State Prison, the Correctional Training Facility and the Department of Homeland Security.
Investigators said the warrants were based on a long investigation related to illegal weapons, fentanyl pills and gang activity.
Officers arrested 19-year-old Robert Jasper Ruacho. He is charged with multiple gun and drug-related charges and is booked into the Monterey County Jail.
Chief Wasson tells KION that Ruacho has a lengthy record and gang affiliation. He was initially arrested about two weeks ago, and at that time he said Ruacho had a gun in the car without a serial number and fentanyl pills. Wasson said when they pulled him over, he was throwing items out of the window.
Wasson said they knew Ruacho was armed and had the potential for violence, so police requested help from other agencies. The department was working with the Department of Homeland Security on gun trafficking, so the agency helped to serve the search warrants.
When officers found Ruacho Thursday morning, they said he was asleep and had blue M30 fentanyl pills, which are the same type he allegedly threw out of the car window two weeks prior.
During the search, officers said they found multiple guns that included handguns, a handgun with no serial number and a rifle with no serial number that appears to be a ghost gun.
The department is having a chemical analysis done on the pills to see if they are linked to multiple overdoses and some overdose deaths in the area.
There were two overdose deaths in Soledad in September, and it is believed that the drugs they took were laced with fentanyl. As of late September, Soledad police said they had responded to more than 21 overdoses.
"Now the drugs that were located in his possession were M30 pills that we know contain fentanyl in them," said Detective Gomez. "So that might be a correlation in the deaths, but we still have yet to prove that."
These illicit drugs initially came from China, but KION was told it is common to find them processed in Mexico and smuggled to the U.S. The pills are cheap to make and sell for about $10 to $15 each.
They are popular among younger people.
"A lot of the overdoses have come from their people in their mid-20s. So there's a lot of young people involved," said Detective Gomez.
If you do come across these pills, authorities say do not touch it, do not smell it and just leave it alone and report it.
Police said the investigation is continuing, and there may be more arrests. Anyone with information is asked to call Det. Gomez at 831-223-5159.