Man in his 20s with a bald head looking at the camera wearing a gray, white and black striped shirt

How did fentanyl get into a Franklin County jail cell and kill Brent Gibney? His parents want an answer to this question after their son Brent Gibney, 29, died at Grant Hospital on October 4. He had been found unconscious “in his cell” at the Franklin County Jail, according to the Franklin County Sheriff’s office.

Debbie Gibney, Brent’s mother, told the Free Press that the Franklin County Coroner’s office confirmed to her that her son died of a fentanyl overdose. “They told me had two and a half times the lethal dose of fentanyl in him,” she said.
Grant Hospital medical records obtained by the Free Press document that Gibney’s urine test came back positive for fentanyl.

Gibney’s parents were never contacted about their son’s death by county jail officials. In a statement to the Free Press, Debbie claimed that “We actually heard from another inmate about his passing.” She said, “The Franklin County Sheriff’s Department is not saying why or what killed him,” though the Franklin County Sheriff’s Official Offense Report noted that “unknown white powder” was in Gibney’s cell.

Ms. Gibney told the Free Press, “There were ten other inmates in the pod with Brent that saw the death and they state the officers waited at least 20 minutes to notify EMS paramedics. He was in full cardiac arrest and not breathing when they finally got here to help Brent. It was too late to resuscitate him and he arrived a Grant Medical already dead.” She said her son was in a “vegetative state” when he entered the hospital.

“We feel that the Franklin County Sheriff’s Department is responsible to Brent’s death by not providing emergency medical intervention that would have prevented it. Not only did they let him lay there over 20 minutes a die, they refused to notify the family and refuse to provide answers as to what or who killed this young man,” Ms. Gibney contends.
Brent’s father flew up to Columbus to protest his son’s death outside the jail. The Gibney’s lived in Grove City and moved to Florida last year. Brent had been in jail for seven months on robbery charges.

Ms. Gibney believes that the jail is “hiding information” that could clarify her family’s questions.

The Free Press contacted the Franklin County Coroner’s office. Assistant to the Coroner Adrienne Mandzak said they would not confirm or deny that Gibney’s death was related to fentanyl but said “The report is in its final stages” and “It should be released in a few weeks.”
The death of rock musician Prince drew attention to the drug last year. Fentanyl, a white powdery drug which is estimated to be 50 to 100 times more powerful than morphine, is becoming a problem in jails throughout Ohio. Ohio has the current reputation of being the fentanyl capital of the United States.

Brent Gibney is not the first person to die from fentanyl in an Ohio jail. According to the Montgomery County Coroner’s office, Dustin Rybak died last December from fentanyl intoxication in the county jail. NBC News declared the Dayton area as the leader, per capita, in fentanyl overdose deaths. Montgomery County is on course to top 800 fentanyl fatalities this year. Fox News reported that in 2016, 11 Ohioans each day died of fentanyl overdoses.
Fentanyl, and the even more dangerous carfentanyl, can kill on contact without injection. Next door in Indiana, 34 Allen County Jail employees were hospitalized after coming in contact with fentanyl sent through the U.S. mail. Last year Joseph Borden, 37, died in a Lorain County jail from a fentanyl overdose.

Mr. Gibney said, “Brent’s mother and myself had knowledge that Brent had a past struggle with drugs and had ups and downs with addiction. We were actually relieved to know that he was incarcerated to help him break any habit he may be struggling with. We thought there was no safer place to overcome the struggle and get victory over addiction than the county jail, as drugs are not available there at all. And it went as we prayed and planned for! Brent spent seven months in jail and was clean as a pin and sober as a judge. He was clear eyed, thinking straight and looking good. He acted and looked back to normal. We were so proud of him for his accomplishments and progress. But, all changed October 1, when Brent came in contact with pure fentanyl.” 

“So, we discovered the county jail is NOT a drug free facility as they claim. Actually, learning that pure fentanyl is being distributed in the county jail is alarming! We also learned that the medical staff is dumbfounded and confused about what life saving drug is used to revive overdose victims,” Mr. Gibney said.

“The jail failed Brent miserably by the failure to administer the proper live saving drug narcan that could have probably saved his life. As parents, the jail violated our trust, not only in supplying the fentanyl to the facilities but by refusing to give Brent the only known overdose survival drug narcan. Plus allowing 25-36 minutes before calling a squad sealed Brent’s demise….We learned these failures at a high cost, the death of our son.”
The Gibney family started a petition with a goal “to bring about serious changes and modifications of the rules, regulations, and treatment of inmates, either convicted and awaiting sentencing or not convicted and awaiting trial in the Franklin County Jail, 370 N. High Street, Columbus Ohio. These changes or modification in rules, procedures, mandates, and regulations apply both to male and female regardless of age, color, race, religion or age.”

They request that: “the jail will employ and retain on 24 hr. basis, available at all times two (2) registered educated and qualified paramedics for the immediate and vital medical treatment of the inmates incarcerated at the facility. Ambulance and life saving equipment provided and maintained to provide immediate transportation if inmates needs require such” and that “the jail will install video cameras and recording equipment to monitor all dorms, pods, or cells for visual surveillance at all times. All areas are to be monitored with exceptions to bathing or rest room areas. Audio surveillance only will be installed in the bathing and rest room areas. Surveillance will be overseen in a central control room on a 24 hr. basis performed by an officer or employee of the county,” and that “the jail will reduce its commissary rates on toiletries and food products available to inmates and the cost to inmates is to not exceed 10% of the invoiced purchased price of the product purchased and provided by the county jail, vendors, or any other food service provider or supplier that are to be purchased by inmate.”

The Free Press calls for a full investigation of Brent Gibney’s fentanyl overdose in the Franklin County Jail.




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