Richmond, Virginia, May 12, 2018 — The city of Richmond is dying, a state attorney general said Wednesday, after a federal judge ruled the city should pay more than $4.5 million to families of people who died from fentanyl-laced prescription painkillers, including heroin.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia in Richmond issued the ruling in a suit filed by Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli.
Richmond’s attorney general, David S. Rutledge, said the city will appeal the decision.
The lawsuit, filed by relatives of some of the overdose victims, said that fentanyl-poisoned prescription painkiller fentanyl was found in the hands of the owners of a pharmacy, a drug dealer and at a drugstore.
The attorney general’s office said in a news release that the city had no choice but to pay.
The Richmond Register obituary for James “Jay” Williams Jr., who died at the age of 20 from a fentanyl overdose in October 2017, said he was a veteran who loved his job.
Williams was one of three Richmond police officers killed in the line of duty in the past year.
The newspaper wrote that he was “a man of deep and abiding loyalty” to the department.
A family member who did not want to be identified spoke with CNN affiliate WVIR.
“They said that he just didn’t care about the city and the city didn’t want him around,” the family member said.
The coroner ruled the death a homicide.
Richmond Mayor Robert Sarvis has said that the drug crisis in the city has been a public health crisis, but that it has not been an epidemic.
The city’s opioid epidemic has been “very public” and “very severe,” Sarvis told CNN in a televised interview in May.
“It has been very difficult to get people off of it, and they’re not getting off of the heroin.”
He said he believes there are “some of the reasons” why Richmond is suffering from the crisis.
The opioid epidemic in the United States has grown exponentially, according to a report by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
More than 20,000 people died from prescription pain medications in 2017, compared to 8,700 in 2014.
About 6,000 of those deaths were linked to fentanyl.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in January that the fentanyl-related deaths in the U.R. are the worst they have seen in the history of the nation.
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