MARION, Ind. – Law enforcement officials in Grant County say a big drug bust last week could have prevented numerous overdoses, even deaths. They say thousands of pills were seized with deadly amounts of fentanyl in each one. Police say hundreds of grams of drugs and five guns were taken off the street after serving two search warrants Wednesday.

A Fox59 crew spent a couple of hours in Marion Saturday hearing from people who live there.

“I’ve lost a few friends who were trying to recover, and they relapsed,” Misty Henry, a Marion resident of 22 years, said. “It’s heartbreaking every time it happens.”

Everyone Fox59 spoke to knows someone personally who has died from a drug overdose, some as recently as within the past few weeks.

“My granddaughter got killed over drugs,” Carl Holliday, a Marion resident of 45 years, said.

“I’ve lost two brothers and a cousin in the last four months due to drug overdoses,” lifelong Marion resident Joshua Sheppard said. “Thought they were buying heroin and they were buying fentanyl not knowing, and they’re not here no more.”

Joshua Sheppard said he’s recovering from his own drug addiction and hopes the recent raid helps prevent more tragedy in his community.

“These drugs are taking out a whole generation of us,” he said.

The J.E.A.N. Team Drug Task Force, led by the Grant County Sheriff’s Office and Marion Police Department, said in a news release that during a search of one home, 3118 S Nebraska St., they seized three semi-automatic handguns, a sawed-off shotgun, an AR-15 pistol and drug-related paraphernalia and distribution items. The team said they also recovered the following drugs: 56 blue, round fentanyl pills marked with “M30,” 148.1 grams of methamphetamine, 14.8 grams of marijuana, 3.6 grams of cocaine and 4.4 grams of fentanyl. Two men, Curtis Knuckles Jr. and Antwone Hemphill, were arrested there.

At the second house, 2222 S Washington St., police say they found 68.3 grams of methamphetamine, 25.9 grams of cocaine, 303.2 grams of marijuana and 4,122 (496.1 grams) fentanyl pills.

“On the street, these fentanyl-based pills are all across America causing overdoses and deaths,” the task force said in a news release.

“They’re not only selling the fentanyl pills, they’re selling powder forms of fentanyl,” Sheppard said. “They’re also putting it in other different drugs to get people hooked on that drug as well.”

2021 CDC data shows an age-adjusted rate of 32.1 drug overdose deaths per 100,000 people in the United States. Indiana Department of Health data shows in the same year – Grant County’s rate was triple the national rate, with 96.1 overdose deaths per 100,000 people.

“The drugs around here – it’s out of control,” Sheppard said. “The drug bust that they just had, it couldn’t have happened at a better time.”

In the news release, the task force said because of the amount of fentanyl in each pill found Wednesday, “it is unknown how many overdoses and deaths of local citizens were spared just due to the apprehension of these pills alone.”

“With any luck, Grant County will get it turned around for us where the kids are safe in the street and they’re able to go play at the park again without having to worry about stepping on a needle or finding a bag of drugs.”

In a statement, attorney Scott Hunt said: “The Grant County Prosecutor’s Office is proud of the work of the Grant County J.E.A.N. Team with respect to the investigation leading up to the Search Warrant being executed on Wednesday. As a result of the investigation, several persons were arrested on numerous drug charges. More importantly, cocaine, methamphetamine, marijuana, and over a pound of counterfeit Percocet pills laced with fentanyl were taken off the streets of Grant County. The information obtained has proven valuable in ongoing narcotics investigations as well.”

At this time, both Hemphill and Knuckles are facing several felony drug charges.