District attorney: Ala. high school student’s death likely linked to fentanyl

The Alabama Law Enforcement Agency was among those investigating Wednesday at Selma High School.
Published: Nov. 10, 2022 at 4:12 AM EST

SELMA, Ala. (WSFA/Gray News) - An Alabama community is grieving the loss of a 16-year-old high school student as investigators work to determine his cause of death. Police said several other students were hospitalized.

The Alabama Law Enforcement Agency was among those investigating Wednesday at Selma High School, a day after the male student died during school hours. Selma Police Capt. Natasha Fowlkes confirmed Tuesday that a 16-year-old student died and at least three others needed emergency care.

Dallas County District Attorney Michael Jackson has indicated that the death is likely linked to fentanyl, but Fowlkes has noted that investigators are awaiting a toxicology report to determine the exact cause of death.

WSFA reports that one parent said the student fell unconscious in the cafeteria. He was administered Narcan in an attempt to revive him, but it was unsuccessful. He was later pronounced dead at the hospital.

“Truly, yesterday was a tragic day in Selma,” said Selma Mayor James Perkins Jr. in a statement. “We lost another child, and several children needed emergency care at the hospital.”

Perkins did not identify the deceased because he was a juvenile but said he knew him, writing, “his death is very close to me. I considered him a son.”

“There is nothing easy about losing a child and the agony of sitting in an ER waiting to find out whether your child will be OK is a pain no parent should endure,” he said. “To the family, schoolmates and friends of the deceased, know that your mayor has a heavy heart and grieves with you.”

Perkins said the city school system is working with the police department, State Bureau of Investigation and the Dallas County Sheriff’s Department to solve the case.

“Be assured that as soon as I receive facts that can be shared with the public, that information will be officially shared with you by law enforcement, school system officials and me,” Perkins said.

He cautioned that “jumping to conclusions or making unproven statements” would only interfere with the investigation.

“I ask that we not do that. In the meantime, let us continue in prayer for the family, all of our children and the entire community,” the mayor said

In a letter sent out to parents, Selma City Schools Superintendent Zickeyous Byrd said grief counselors would be made available for students and staff Wednesday.

“When an event of this magnitude touches one family, it affects us all,” Byrd’s letter said. “Selma High is an essential part of this district, and we jointly share the responsibility of developing our vital resource - our children.”

Byrd’s letter was shared by Alabama State Superintendent of Schools Eric Mackey, who said, “We are heartbroken by the tragic loss of the Selma High School student. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family, friends, classmates, teachers, administrators and all those impacted.”