SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — The bodies of three men were discovered early Thursday on the sidewalk near a high school in San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury district in what appears to be a case of deadly drug overdoses, authorities said.

San Francisco police spokesman Officer Robert Rueca said his agency got call at 4:35 a.m. reporting the discovery of three males who were unresponsive along Page Street near the Urban School of San Francisco.

Officers responded and declared the three men dead at the scene.

In a statement, the Urban School said its security guard found the bodies in front of the building and notified police.

Rachel Kagan, a spokeswoman for the city’s health department, said the deaths may have been caused by an overdose of fentanyl, a powerful opioid which has been fueling an epidemic of fatal overdoses nationwide.

“We do not have confirmation at this time of the cause of death, but we are concerned about the possibility of fentanyl poisoning,” said Kagan. “We will be contacting health care providers and the drug user community to ensure they are aware of the dangers of fentanyl and know how to take precautions.”

Fentanyl often kills before emergency responders even have a chance to help. “If we are lucky enough, to be able to bring them back to the point where they can tell us what happened, they’ll say I took a pill and it looks exactly like my other pills,” said Dr. Hallam Gugelmann of San Francisco’s CPMC St. Luke’s Hospital.

Police said foul play was not being considered as a cause and the medical examiner would determine the cause of death.

Residents and workers were saddened by the deaths but noted they occurred in a neighborhood known for its homelessness and drugs. The area also is a popular destination for tourists drawn to the nostalgic scene of the 1960-70s hippie culture.

The bodies were found near the private $45,000-a-year high school one block away from Haight Street and its colorful shops selling tie-dye T-shirts and pot paraphernalia. The school sits across from a church on a residential street of well-kept houses and apartment buildings, and next to a preschool where kids could be heard playing.

Urban School spokeswoman Kristen Bailey said in the statement that the three men have “no connection to Urban, and the police assure us there is no danger or threat to our students, or faculty and staff.”

Debra Shaw, who works as a processor at Goodwill, said she walks by the school all the time and knows that drugs are a problem. “It’s horrible,” she said. “I have seen people come into the dressing room and shoot up and I have took the needles out and threw them away.”

San Francisco has also grappled with an entrenched homelessness problem despite its thriving tech economy.


© Copyright 2018 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Comments (3)
  1. Overdose has become the leading cause of death of people under 50 years old. Although California’s opioid crisis isn’t as bad as states on the East Coast, we still see our share of overdose deaths. Heroin is one of the most addictive drugs and more people than ever are using it. In many cases, heroin or pills, purchased illegally, contain additives like Fentanyl which can cause a fairly immediate overdose. This is a very potent synthetic opioid that is 50 times stronger than heroin alone and reduces costs to drug traffickers. Opioids enhance sedation and depress respiratory function. Therefore, when combined with fentanyl risk of overdose death is much greater because a person can pass out and stop breathing. Our current focus needs to be improving access to adequate, individualized medical treatment and mental health care. People seeking help shouldn’t all be offered the same standardized treatment methods because each person has different needs and goals. The opioid epidemic is telling us that our treatment has to change.