LAFAYETTE, La. (KLFY) – A grand jury recently handed down a murder indictment against a South Louisiana accused of giving the deadly drug fentanyl to a woman and causing her overdose death but prosecutions in cases like this are rare because of how difficult they are to prove.
Damien Dashaun Bernard, 25, of Arnaudville, is charged with second-degree murder and distribution of a schedule two controlled substance in the death of 20-year-old Jonterez Broussard. Bernard is in the Lafayette Parish Correctional Center on $400,000 bond.
Broussard was found unconscious from an apparent drug overdose in the 500 block of Jefferson Street in late October 2021. She was a student at UL. She was in the hospital for a week, until she passed away on October 30. Lafayette police say a toxicology report showed she died from fentanyl toxicity. Police say Bernard allegedly sold the deadly drug to Broussard. U.S. Marshals captured Bernard in January.
“It’s the absolute worst thing I’ve seen in 36 years in law enforcement,” said Duson Police Chief Kip Judice. “It has no barriers. It doesn’t matter the age. It doesn’t matter the race. It doesn’t matter the sex. Fentanyl kills.”
Holding people accountable criminally for these overdose deaths is rare. Five months ago, Carencro Police charged Kermit Gobert with second-degree murder for the overdose death of Sodasha Derousselle. Police say he provided her heroin laced with fentanyl.
“In today’s society, if you don’t have video, or a picture, or something that absolutely puts them there at that time,” said Youngsville Police Chief Ricky Boudreaux. “You know the burden of proof is on the state when you pursue charges. It makes it difficult to hold those people accountable.”
Authorities in Acadiana continuously warn the public that fentanyl-laced drugs have are among some of the most deadly illegal drugs today. Whether the user knows it or not, they take a potentially fatal chance.
“In some cases, we’ve been able to draw the connection. A prosecutor has a high standard to meet. Proof beyond any reasonable doubt. That’s a high mark in our justice system, and rightfully so. You don’t want innocent people going to jail for something they did not do,” Judice said.
“You can arrest them and try to bring them to justice, but if there’s not enough there to build that solid case, it doesn’t get prosecuted,” Boudreaux said.
The Lafayette Police Department Narcotics Unit released this statement on the matter:
“Fentanyl is one of the most common drugs involved in most overdose deaths. Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that is up to 50 times stronger than heroin, and 100 times stronger than morphine. It can be found in powder and liquid form. The amount of fentanyl that can cause death is equivalent to approximately 3 grains of salt. The major source of fentanyl enters the united states via the U.S. /Mexico border. Fentanyl is also being found mixed with other drugs such as cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine and marijuana. In addition to this, pills manufactured illicitly by drug dealers, that would actually appear to be laboratory produced, sometimes contain fentanyl. These types of pills can be compressed to resemble other prescription pills such as Tylenol, Adderall, Xanax and others. Drug dealers do this in order to increase the effect of the pill, not knowing the potential effect on the user. This is extremely dangerous to the end user because they are unaware of what they are actually ingesting. All fentanyl cases in Lafayette will be vigorously investigated by the Lafayette Police Department, and our local, state, and federal agencies.”