Three men were arrested and arraigned in county court in Riverside Monday, March 11, on multiple drug related charges. Two of them are charged with manslaughter, for allegedly selling heroin laced with fentanyl, which caused the death of a Riverhead man last year.
According to police, John Brophy, 49, of Riverhead, sold the fatal concoction to a Sweezy Avenue resident, leading to that unidentified individual’s death. The East End Drug Task Force, run out of District Attorney Tim Sini’s office, and comprising officers and detectives, many operating under cover, from departments across the East End, took over the investigation from the Riverhead Town police after the cause of death of the victim was determined.
Brophy had allegedly purchased his narcotics from Lashawn Lawrence, 35, of Greenport. Both men were charged with manslaughter in the second degree, a C felony, as well as a felony charge of conspiracy. In addition, Brophy, who apparently made several sales to undercover officers, was charged with three counts of third-degree criminal sale of a controlled substance, and three counts third-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance, all B felonies.
After buying the narcotics from Lawrence, Brophy then “acted in concert” with Bryan Hale, 52, of Flanders, in selling the alleged victim the fatal dose. The overdose happened on September 19. Hale was not charged with manslaughter, but was charged with two B felonies, criminal sale and possession of a controlled substance. Brophy is said to have frequently sold the drugs out of an auto repair shop owned by Hale, at 500 Lincoln Street in Riverhead.
Police said Brophy was aware of the power of the narcotics he was peddling to feed his own habit. At one point, police said, he actually used Narcan to revive a customer who had overdosed. Also, five days before the fatal overdose on Sweezy Avenue, another alleged customer of Brophy overdosed in his car, crashing the vehicle. Police revived that victim with Narcan, as well.
According to Sini, the investigation uncovered text messages between Brophy and Lawrence. In one, Brophy allegedly writes, “People r dropping. I think it’s (fentanyl). We need to talk. I don’t want anything to do with that.” Yet, despite the overdoses from the narcotics they were allegedly distributing in either purple or red waxed envelopes, Lawrence and Brophy both continued to deal their drugs, police said.
All three were arraigned on the charges after the indictment from a grand jury was unsealed Monday in the Suffolk County Courtroom of Justice Anthony Senft. Bail was set for Brophy at $125,000, Lawrence at $200,000, and Hale at $100,000.
At a press conference Monday announcing the arrests, Sini said the three sold drugs they knew to be potentially fatally laced with fentanyl. “They were playing a game of Russian roulette, but with other peoples’ lives,” he said.
This is the third time that the Suffolk County District Attorney’s office has pursued manslaughter charges following a heroin/fentanyl overdose, the DA noted. “We need better legislation, including a ‘death by dealer’ statute that holds drug dealers accountable when they kill people by selling,” he said.