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'No excuse' for slide that makes light of drug overdose, sheriff says

Sheriff Charlie McDonald is strongly condemning a slide leaked from an interoffice email that mocks the use of the drug overdose treatment Narcan, calling the image "a tasteless attempt at humor" that he had not authorized and had never seen.

An image under the title "Laugh of the Day" shows the drug being sprayed from a syringe. A tagline underneath says, "Robbing Darwin of his bountiful harvest since 1971."

The image and the phrase implies "that the many lives that have been saved by the timely use of Narcan to reverse the deadly effects of opioid overdoses were not worthy of being saved," McDonald said in a statement his department sent to media organizations on Friday afternoon. "This was the first time I was aware of the existence of this slide." The slide had appeared in an interdepartmental email about crime analysis information on May 23, he said.

The sheriff became aware that someone had leaked the image to news organizations.

"As families struggle with the sudden loss of their sons, daughters, mothers and fathers our Sheriff in Henderson County thinks this opioid crisis is funny," an anonymous source said in an email to reporters and editors who cover Henderson County. The picture, the email writer continued, suggests "Charlie McDonald thinks these deaths are funny and by this picture thinks lives should not be saved. Time for a change in Henderson County."

Nothing could be further from the truth, McDonald said in the news release.

"The Henderson County Sheriff's Office has worked very hard to lead the way in combatting the devastation inflicted on our community by this nationwide crisis," he said. "We were one of the first law enforcement agencies in our area three years ago, to train and equip our deputies with this life-saving tool. To date we have over 20 reversals of opioid overdoses by Henderson County deputies and detention staff. I am aware that every person saved is someone's child, parent, spouse, neighbor or employee caught in a desperate web of addiction from which, I am certain, they desire to be free. I am well aware of the resulting heart-ache, pain and gut-wrenching despair that addiction brings to those who struggle with this disease."

As for the slide and the subordinate who included it in an email to deputies, McDonald said there's "no excuse for it, regardless of the intention ... I am told it was an attempt at dark humor but it was in no way humorous and I know it does not reflect the true heart of the actual sender." The department dealt with the issue according to its policy and guidelines, McDonald said, although he did not identify the sender nor specifiy what consequences the sender faced.

"As Sheriff, I accept the fact that this happened on my watch, in my agency, by one of my employees," he said. "It showed a lapse in judgment and has been appropriately addressed." He called the episode "an opportunity for humility, true remorse and lessons learned. I assure you that all have taken place and I apologize that in this instance there was a failure to maintain the highest standards of what I believe is 'a brotherhood in pursuit of excellence.'"