Heroin arrest in Vidor highlights growing problem

Brandon Daigle

A recent arrest in Vidor has once again raised concerns about heroin’s presence in Southeast Texas, and the U.S. Attorney says he worries the United States could see more of the dangerous drug coming across the Mexican border due to an increase in interest by cartels.

According to a report from the Vidor Police Department, 36-year-old Brandon Keith Daigle of Vidor was arrested for warrants and for possession of what police believe to be black tar heroin on Jan. 12. VPD Officer Robert Martin reports he was patrolling on Mansfield Ferry Drive in Vidor at about 11:20 a.m. when he spotted a man and a woman walking on the wrong side of the roadway with their backs facing traffic. The officer discovered Daigle, the male walker, had a warrant for his arrest out of Jefferson County and detained the couple. As he was being searched after being arrested for the warrant, Daigle reportedly told officers he had “a small clear plastic baggie” in his watch-pocket.

“The Ziplock-type baggie contained a black, tar-like substance,” Officer Martin reported. “Mr. Daigle told me the substance in the clear plastic baggie was heroin.”

Officers also said they discovered numerous syringes on the person of Daigle’s female acquaintance. Daigle claimed responsibility for the suspected drugs and drug paraphernalia, reported VPD. He was charged with possession of a controlled substance and possession of drug paraphernalia, along with being served the Jefferson County warrant.

While lab results will not be in for some time, tests of the substance believed to be heroin at the scene of the arrest were “indicative of opium alkaloids,” Martin reported.

VPD Chief Dave Shows said they cannot be sure the substance is heroin until the lab results come back.

“It does appear that’s what it’s going to be,” said Shows. Regarding heroin’s potential presence in the community, Shows said, “If it is the real deal, we will be pretty concerned.”

According to the website www.streetdrugs.org, heroin is “synthesized from morphine, a naturally occurring substance extracted from the seed pod of the Asian opium poppy plant. Heroin usually appears as a white or brown powder or as a black sticky substance, known as ‘black tar heroin.’”

In March 2014, Beaumont Police Department SWAT Lt. Ky Brown told The Examiner that he and other officers at BPD have noticed an increase in heroin-related arrests in Beaumont. He said he is not seeing huge quantities of the drug when they catch local heroin users and dealers, but he is seeing it more often than in the past.

“Heroin has always been popular within the prison system,” said Brown last year. “It was more popular in the late 1960s and in the 1970s, but then crack and meth took over. It was still fairly popular in prisons, though. We have a high prison population here, and sometimes, when the inmates are released, they stay in the area.”

Brown said in addition to the high prison population and the area’s close proximity to Houston, a drug distribution hub, another reason he believes heroin use has gained in popularity recently is due to a crackdown on “pill mills,” or pain management clinics that were distributing prescription medication in large quantities to drug abusers until legislation effectively shut down the majority of them in Southeast Texas.

Brown said users who went to the pill mills were looking for a new high. Drug users who were once able to “doctor shop” and obtain prescription medications, particularly opioids,  through the pill mills needed a replacement drug, and found it on the streets in the form of heroin.

U.S. Attorney Malcolm Bales of the Eastern District of Texas expressed concern during a press conference regarding the guilty plea of Gulf Cartel leader Juan Francisco Saenz-Tamez on Jan. 15 (see page 9A) that heroin could become more prominent locally and nationally as Mexican cartels distribute more of the substance and transport it across the border.

“Heroin is the next big thing,” Bales said.