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South Dakota 911 caller avoids drug charges in heroin overdose thanks to 2017 law

MITCHELL, S.D. — A man was arrested Wednesday, April 17, in Mitchell after ambulance personnel revived him from a heroin overdose. The caller who saved his life avoided charges thanks to a 2017 law.

According to a press release from the Mitchell Department of Public Safety, a woman reported at about 4:13 p.m. that 40-year-old Jamie Bowen was not breathing.

Mitchell police and ambulance personnel responded to a residence on East Havens Avenue, where they determined Bowen was having an opioid overdose and administered Narcan, an opioid antagonist.

“He was out on the brink of death, and he came right back out of it,” Mitchell Chief of Public Safety Lyndon Overweg said Thursday afternoon.

A search warrant was executed on the residence where Bowen was found, and police allegedly found drug paraphernalia and less than a gram of an unidentified powder.

When he was released from the hospital, Bowen was arrested for unauthorized possession of a controlled substance in schedules I or II and possession of drug paraphernalia. Additional charges may be filed against Bowen, police indicated Thursday.

The woman who called 911 to report the incident reportedly stayed at the scene and cooperated with the investigation. The woman allegedly had illegal drugs in her possession, but was not charged due to a law passed in 2017 that gives immunity to people who report those that need emergency assistance for drug overdoses.

“It saved this guy’s life, by her calling this in,” Overweg said.

The law states that the reporting party qualifies for immunity if the evidence leading to a person being charged was obtained as a result of their seeking medical assistance, if they seek assistance for someone with an immediate concern and if they remain at the scene and cooperate with medical and law enforcement personnel.

A similar law applies to underage drinkers who call for help and cooperate with law enforcement for alcohol consumption-related medical emergencies.

“If there is any like incidents, we want people to know: Don’t just sit back and let these people die,” Overweg said. “Call it in, wait until we get there, and there’s an immunity clause out there.”