Federal agents in hazmat suits raided two locations in Lubbock Thursday, finding evidence they say of a drug so dangerous even small amounts can kill.
The early morning bust in Lubbock highlights new concerns about fentanyl on Texas. The drug has caused hundreds of overdose deaths in other parts of the country. Now, there are new fears North Texas could be hit hard.
In the early morning darkness agents from the DEA, Homeland Security and the Lubbock Police Department descended on a Lubbock apartment building.
They arrested two women suspected of selling fentanyl — a drug similar to heroin, only 50 times more powerful.
"This is the most dangerous thing we deal with, by far," said veteran DEA agent Calvin Bond from the agency's Dallas division.
Fentanyl is so dangerous DEA agents entering the apartment suited up more like astronauts than police.
"I've been with DEA for 27 years and this (drug) is the scariest thing I've ever seen," Bond said.
The hazmat gear protects agents from touching or inhaling tiny granules that can kill. It's so warm inside the protective suits they can only wear them for a short period of time. And each time they come out of the building they need to be decontaminated.
As the sun rose through the morning fog it shed light on a new realization. The Lubbock area, and perhaps all of Texas, is facing a new drug crisis.
It's one that Dallas's top federal prosecutor fears may sweep across Texas the same way it has in the Midwest and the Northeast, where it's been linked to hundreds of deaths.
"Unfortunately I think what we are likely to see before it gets better is a continued increase and spike in the number of overdoses and deaths," said U.S. Attorney John Parker, the top federal prosecutor in Lubbock and Dallas.
There have been three suspected fentanyl deaths in Lubbock in recent months, and now come Thursday's raids.
A third person was arrested at a home in South Lubbock, where agents spent the afternoon seizing more evidence.
Prosecutors say the group bought fentanyl from clandestine labs in China, communicating over what's known as the "dark web," making their purchases harder to trace.
According to U.S. Attorney Parker one of the biggest concerns for law enforcement is how easily the drug can be shipped to Texas from places like China. Agents said they are already seeing more troubling signs in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.
"We know that fentanyl is coming through the Dallas-Fort Worth area. We have had some seizures, DEA has had some seizures of fentanyl," Bond said.
That raises fears that more deaths, and more raids like Thursday's, could be on the way.
Federal prosecutors identified the three people arrested in Lubbock as Sidney Caleb Lanier, 36; Jessica Christine Holl, 28; and Jamie Marie Robertson, 32.