Updated at 9:25 p.m. on Tuesday, June 11, 2019, with more information.
At least four people have died in just over 24 hours after Chattanooga police suspect them of having taken tainted drugs.
Toxicology screens are pending to determine exactly what kind of drugs are to blame, but based on the investigation police believe the causes of death to be illicit drugs, according to a news release.
"The number of overdose deaths in a short period of time is indicative of extremely dangerous drugs being sold and used," police spokeswoman Elisa Myzal said in the release.
"The Chattanooga area is experiencing a public health issue," Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke tweeted Tuesday evening. " Each one of these losses is a tragedy for the victims' families and our community. We need to ensure more lives are not lost."
"If you or someone you know purchases or uses drugs please be mindful of this warning," the news release warns. And "if you witness an overdose call 911 immediately and do not leave the person alone until EMS or police arrive."
As of May 9, there had already been 99 total drug overdoses reported to police in Chattanooga this year, according to data provided by the Chattanooga Police Department. Twenty-three of those people died.
In all of 2018, there were 246 overdoses with 105 deaths.
In Hamilton County, 324 people have died between 2013 and 2017, with a steady increase each year, according to the Tennessee Department of Health. And statewide, overdose deaths steadily rose from 1,166 in 2013 to 1,776 in 2017.
Across the country, a growing number of drug dealers face prosecution for the fatal overdoses of their customers.
Here locally, two co-conspirators were sentenced in 2017 to 10 years in prison for their role in the 2016 fatal overdose of 24-year-old Logan Whiteaker less than one day after he graduated from the Hamilton County Drug Court.
"Yesterday at Drug Court, I made the comment that I never had to worry about getting 'that' phone call again," Whiteaker's mother, Dawn Harrison, told the Times Free Press. "But I got that phone call this morning: 'Mrs. Harrison, I'm sorry, but your son's passed away.'"
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