Fentanyl - Photo courtesy of Joaquin Corbalan P on Shutterstock

Prosecutors Tuesday declined to file a criminal complaint against a 32-year-old man suspected of dealing fentanyl in Banning, instead returning the case to police for additional investigation.

Donald Chapman Schlachter was arrested and booked into the Smith Correctional Facility in Banning Thursday on suspicion of possession of controlled substances, possession of illegal drugs for sale, transportation of controlled substances and possession of drug paraphernalia.

Banning Police Department detectives submitted the case to the Riverside County District Attorney’s Office for review, but on Tuesday morning, prosecutors informed the agency that no charges would be filed due to apparent evidentiary concerns, according to D.A.’s office spokesman John Hall.

Schlachter, who has been held on $30,000 bail since Thursday, was slated to be released from custody Tuesday afternoon.

According to Banning police, about 7:30 a.m. Thursday, a patrol unit stopped the suspect for an alleged traffic violation as he was driving through the 300 block of South Highland Springs Avenue.

“During the contact, the officer noticed drug paraphernalia in plain sight inside the vehicle,” according to a police statement. “During further investigation, the officer located approximately 23 grams of suspected fentanyl powder and methamphetamine, and baggies consistent with sales of narcotics.”

Schlachter was taken into custody without incident. Background information on the suspect was not available.

Fentanyl is manufactured in overseas labs and according to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, it’s smuggled across the U.S.-Mexico border by drug cartels. The substance is 80-100 times more potent than morphine and is a popular additive, mixed into any number of narcotics and pharmaceuticals. The ingestion of only two milligrams can be fatal.

District Attorney Mike Hestrin told the Board of Supervisors last month there were nearly 500 fentanyl-induced deaths countywide in 2021, which represents a 250-fold increase from 2016, when only two such fatalities were documented.

Statistics published in May by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed there were roughly 108,000 fatal drug overdoses in 2021, and fentanyl poisoning accounted for over 80,000 of them.

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