The trial of a Yellowknife man accused of bringing a dangerous form of fentanyl into the city, allegedly resulting in the non-fatal overdose of a woman in 2016, began on Monday.
Darcy Oake, 24, is charged with importing, trafficking and possessing for the purpose of trafficking furanylfentanyl, a less potent form of the powerful opioid fentanyl.
He’s also accused of criminal negligence causing bodily harm – a charge seldom seen in drug cases — by providing the drug to a woman who later overdosed.
Following a rash of near fatal opioid overdoses over a 48-hour span in Yellowknife in November 2016 – which prompted a public warning from the Department of Health and Social Services – an investigation led RCMP to Oake’s Borden Drive home on Nov. 25, 2016.
Mounties found a bag containing a white substance.
The discovery of what officers believed to be fentanyl triggered a major response from police.
RCMP Clandestine Laboratory Enforcement and Response (CLEAR) unit, based outside of the territory, was called in to probe the property. Members donned hazmat suits and wore self-contained breathing systems as they searched the area.
In court on Monday, Oake pleaded guilty to one count of trafficking furanylfentanyl on Nov. 23, 2016 – two days before RCMP raided his Borden Drive home.
Oake pleaded not guilty to all other charges.
Prosecutor Duane Praught said the Crown expects evidence to show that between Oct. 1, 2016 and Nov. 28, 2016, Oake imported furanylfentanyl on two occasions and that he subsequently gave the drug – despite being “well aware of the danger” – to the woman who overdosed, causing her bodily harm.
Prosecutors allege Oake ordered the drug online from Hong Kong over the “dark web,” an encrypted pocket of the Internet often used for illegal purposes.
Parents testify at trial
Day-one of the judge-alone trial in NWT Supreme Court, which is expected to take several days, saw Oake’s parents take the stand to testify.
The court heard Oake himself overdosed at his home the day it was raided by RCMP.
Oake’s father, Dean Oake, appeared to wipe away tears as he recounted finding his son unresponsive in his bedroom on that morning. Oake was living with his father at the time. Oake said his son had been struggling with addiction, having overdosed just days before while walking his dog near their home.
Oake’s mother – who was later questioned by Praught – rushed to the scene, he testified. They both performed CPR on their son before paramedics and police arrived. Oake’s father told the court he gave police permission to search his son’s bedroom, along with the garage, before going to the hospital.
“Thank god he was alive,” he said.
The father of the accused testified he and Oake’s mother talked to their son about seeking addictions treatment just one day earlier.
Const. James Gallant, a Mountie involved in the search of Oake’s bedroom, was taken to hospital after showing symptoms of exposure to the drug found at the Borden Drive residence, the court heard.
He was released shortly after.
‘Gasps for air’
Cpl. William Sturgeon, one of three RCMP officers involved in the initial search of Oake’s bedroom, testified Tuesday he located a bag containing a crystal-like substance in the accused’s dresser near a digital scale, prompting the response from CLEAR.
Prior to the search, Sturgeon said he saw an unconscious Oake being brought into the hallway of the Borden Drive residence to be treated before he heard “gasps for air,” from the accused.
The trial will resume on Thursday, when Oake’s alleged victim, the woman who overdosed, is expected to testify.