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By Tom Ferrall
Staff Writer 

DEA agent gives horrific facts to FHS seniors


Last updated 9/19/2018 at 9:04pm

Rockwell "Rocky" Herron, a special agent with the Drug Enforcement Administration, addresses seniors at Fallbrook High School, Sept. 5.

Rockwell "Rocky" Herron, a special agent with the Drug Enforcement Administration, gets angry every time he tells the story of a baby suffering a slow, agonizing death because his mother chose to take drugs.

"This mom is in Philadelphia with a 1-year-old boy and she's a heroin addict," said Herron during a presentation to Fallbrook High School seniors on the dangers of drug abuse Sept. 5. "One night she shoots up in bed and dies – an accidental overdose – in bed next to her baby. Three weeks later the cops open the door and find him dead too. They determine he died of dehydration. Dehydration is a hideous and slow painful death.

"The cops did an investigation and talked to the neighbors, (asking) did you hear anything, and several neighbors – not one, several – said, 'yeah, a couple of weeks ago we heard a couple days of screaming and crying and then it stopped,'" continued Herron. "So as this little baby dies, screaming and begging for help, more than one person heard it and nobody did anything. A little boy in your country. And this problem is getting much, much worse. It's not getting better."

Herron has been a DEA agent for 28 years, chasing big drug traffickers, cartel bosses and major criminals. A constant witness to the devastation caused by drugs, Herron pleads for all people – especially the younger generation – to stay away from the toxic substances. His presentation to the Fallbrook students was called "I Choose My Future."

"We're seeing all the time what drug use has done to people just like you and their families and it's ugly and it's sad," said Herron.

Herron explained that futures and dreams are destroyed every day – especially in the U.S. – by drugs.

"We are the biggest drug-using country on the planet by far," said Herron. "No other country comes close and the problem is growing. In 2017, statistics said 72,000 people died of overdose in the U.S. The year before it was 64,000. The year before 58,000. So, are we going to get 80,000 this year? I ask myself, when are we going to start to care. How many people have to die every year from drugs before the country kind of wakes up."

Herron said the key to avoiding such a fate is to never try drugs (you can't get addicted to something you've never had). He noted that drugs take down people from all walks of life – young and old, rich and poor, working people and celebrities – and presented a video that showed the smiling faces of more than 40 people who died of a drug overdose.

The song "If I Die Young" by The Band Perry accompanied the somber video, which included the faces of many young people as well music legend Prince and All-American basketball player Len Bias, who died of a cocaine overdose two days after being selected by the Boston Celtics as the second overall pick in the 1986 NBA draft.

Herron added that today's drugs – thanks to traffickers – are more dangerous and addictive than ever. For example, some drug dealers put methamphetamine in joints.

"It's marketing," said Herron. "You don't get addicted to weed like you do to meth. Drug dealers were sneaking meth into the joints to get their clients hooked on meth unknowingly, understanding that once they were hooked on the meth, most people would give them anything – their bodies, their money, anything. There are evil people out there."

Dealers are also adding fentanyl – the powerful opioid that killed Prince – to other drugs.

"Fentanyl is a synthetic drug like heroin," explained Herron. "Heroin is a very popular drug, very easy to get addicted to. Fentanyl is 100 times more powerful and it's really cheap to make, so the traffickers started adding it to heroin to make the heroin stronger. Then they just start selling straight fentanyl to heroin users."

Herron said fentanyl is also being found in cocaine and meth as well as in pills, which means drug users have no idea of the potency of the drugs they are buying.

"Prince, an amazing musician, thought he was taking a Vicodin," said Herron. "He was wrong. It was a counterfeit Vicodin and had fentanyl in it and he died."

Herron's message to the students was simple: when that time comes to make a life-changing decision – whether to try drugs or not – make the smart one by saying no thanks.

"Everybody in the presentation today, they're all real people who once upon a time were in high school with a healthy body and a healthy mind and a future and dreams of the life they wanted to live," said Herron. "Everyone of them. But somewhere along the way, in high school or whenever, someone came up and said, 'hey man, hey cousin, let's share this. It's good, safe dope. Come on, let's try this.'

"Everybody in this presentation thought exactly the same thing: 'I know I can handle it, I won't get addicted, it won't happen to me,'" continued Herron. "And they were wrong. They couldn't stop. These are very powerful chemicals and you're putting them in your body to change how your brain works and nobody is stronger than these drugs."

Herron said not many good stories come out of drug abuse.

"When it comes to using drugs, there are three rules that don't change across the planet," said Herron. "First, drug use is a choice. The second rule, like every choice, there is a consequence. My experience is pretty much everybody who uses dope eventually starts to have negative consequences of one kind or another. The third rule is those consequences never affect just the user. When someone starts taking Vicodin, gets hooked on Vicodin and then jumps to heroin and becomes a heroin addict, you think that affects their family, their school, their community? Of course it does."

Herron said 90 percent of property crimes in this country are committed by drug addicts who steal people's property and sell it to get money for their habit.

"We discovered every problem in society has a connection to drug abuse," said Herron. (Drug addicts) don't go to work at McDonald's, they don't go to school, they drug themselves. When you're a drug addict there are only three ways to make money. You steal stuff to get the drugs, you sell drugs or you sell your body. It's the same everywhere."

Herron told the students the DEA can't eliminate the drug problem without help from the younger generation

"You're the solution to this problem," said Herron. "If you respect yourselves and your brains and your futures and your dreams, you'll never put this crap in your bodies."

If people aren't using drugs, explained Herron, there isn't a market for drugs.

"It (the drug problem) is all about the money," said Herron. "As long you're willing to buy it, there's a drug problem. You stop buying this stuff, drug trafficking disappears immediately."

In concluding his talk, Herron came back to the theme "I Choose My Future."

"It's a simple slogan and it's a powerful one," said Herron. "Do you want to make choices that take you to a place in life where you become a hero to your children and your communities and your families, and you have opportunities to give back to society? Or do you want to make choices that put you on a path to bring terrible pain and misery and suffering to your own loved ones? That's what it boils down to."

DEA agent has trouble getting into schools

Tom Ferrall

Staff Writer

Drug Enforcement Administration special agent Rockwell "Rocky" Herron believes it is vital to educate young people on the dangers of drug abuse, and he wishes more high school officials would take advantage of the DEA's free outreach services.

"It's hard to get into schools," said Herron, who complimented Fallbrook Union High School superintendent Dr. Hugo Pedroza and Fallbrook High principal Dr. David Farkas for allowing him to address Fallbrook High seniors Sept. 5.

"I was at a Rotary here in Fallbrook and I kind of attacked the education industry and he (Pedroza) came up and said, 'hey, let's talk,'" said Herron. "He and Dr. Farkas are totally open to it."

Herron's presentation includes hard facts and some sickening stories about lives being cut short by accidental overdoses.

"We're working on prevention rather than reaction," said Farkas of welcoming the DEA to Fallbrook High. "We'd rather be proactive and not have grief counselors here because someone made one mistake, taking something they shouldn't have."

Herron said he yearned for more school administrators to be as accommodating as Pedroza and Farkas.

"What's so frustrating is they were, 'oh yeah, please come,' yet with most high schools in San Diego it's like, 'oh, you know our schedule is kind of busy, cutting an hour, I don't know,'" said Herron. "It's like, come on, if you want it you can make time for it."

Herron believes that of all the risks to the future, health, safety and prosperity of kids, drug abuse is the most dangerous. He said many school officials agree with him but don't take advantage of his offer to talk with the students.

"I tell them, 'so now that we're unanimous that drug abuse is the No. 1 most imminent threat to all of our kids, what are you doing in your schools to educate your children?'" said Herron. "And there's crickets. I give them my card and say call us and we don't get the calls."

Herron believes some schools don't call because of perception.

"A lot of schools think that if the DEA comes it's sending the message that our school must have a really bad drug problem and we don't want to send that message," said Herron, adding it's a stance he finds unacceptable.

"The job we have to do is to get the community to put pressure on the education officials to say, OK fine, you don't want DEA to come in, who do you want to come in?" continued Herron. "We do it for free. There's no charge. We want to get to as many young people as we can to spread this information."

Herron said he planned to return to Fallbrook High to explore more ways the DEA and the school could educate students.

"What's really cool is they're willing to work with us to explore what more we can do – staff training, maybe focus work with some of the groups of kids," said Herron. "One of my dreams is to work with seniors and juniors to teach them how to mentor eighth graders, so they can talk to them about their own experiences at parties and the temptations."


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