A Killer Among Us: Inside West Michigan’s opioid epidemic


GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — On a Monday morning in April, detectives with the Kent Area Narcotics Enforcement Team were positioned throughout a large apartment complex in Gaines Township, watching a known heroin user as he waited for his dealer to show up. Target 8 was there, too, ready to document the undercover operation as it unfolded.

As far as Kent County Sheriff’s Department Lt. Al Roetman could recall, it was the first time the team had given any media organization that kind of access.

The opioid overdose epidemic has become so deadly that leaders at the sheriff’s department, which oversees the multiagency drug enforcement task force KANET, decided to work with Target 8 to shine a light on the crisis in West Michigan.

“Our number one priority now is heroin,” Roetman explained. “That’s the biggest thing that’s plaguing our communities, whether you live in a big city or you live in a rural, country setting. It’s all over the place. … It’s hitting everybody and anybody from all demographics to all social classes.”

When the heroin dealer KANET had been surveilling pulled into the apartment complex, he parked his Mercedes SUV in clear view of Target 8.

“Hey, I got a visual on it,” Roetman told his team on the radio. “He pulled right into a parking spot. You can box him in. He can’t get out.”

But the dealer had another idea.

“He was boxed in,” Roetman said later. “He parked in a great spot for us. He still decided to ram an undercover police vehicle, push it back, flee. He jumped a rock, crashed through a sign and ultimately went across the street and fled on foot.”

On Monday at 11 p.m., 24 Hour News 8 showed you what happened next, taking you inside the operation as it happened.

Then, Tuesday at 11 p.m., Target 8’s special investigative series — “A Killer Among Us” — continued with a rare look inside the world of opioid addiction through a camera lens that documented one woman’s spiral into madness.

On Wednesday morning on 24 Hour News 8 Daybreak, an addiction doctor was live in studio to answer questions about opioid addiction.

Then, Wednesday at 11 p.m., Target 8 examined Kent County’s deadliest year yet in the epidemic that’s plaguing West Michigan. Opioids like heroin and prescription pain relievers killed nearly 90 people in Kent County in 2015. In that year, drug overdoses killed more young people in the county than car crashes.