How a drug overdose in North Dakota became part of an international investigation
GRAND FORKS—What started as an investigation into the death of an 18 year old in the Red River Valley would lead detectives overseas.
"They came to our house, it was three in the morning, we sat there for the next five hours in shock," said Jason Henke.
Jason and Laura Henke's son Bailey had just been found dead inside a Grand Forks apartment building. Their son had overdosed on powdered fentanyl.
"It is still a shock, still not real," Jason Henke said.
"I was clueless, I had to have the investigators explain it to us, what it was," Laura Henke said. The drug was also new to police across the Valley and fairly new across the nation as well.
Investigators would eventually learn kids were using it in class.
"It was surprising, especially with children in the community," said Lt. Danny Weigel of the UND Police Department.
Little did those investigators working Bailey's case know it would become a career case, with prosecutors labeling it Operational Denial.
Originally 12 people were charged.
Prosecutors allege a Columbian drug lord was shipping fentanyl across the country all from the comfort of his prison cell in Canada via the dark web.
"It has made it a little more difficult form the investigative standpoint, but as it continues to evolve, law enforcement evolves as well, they've done a good job of keeping up with it, this is how they are getting it how can we combat that," said Lt. Weigel.
Nearly three years have gone by since Henke's death and with all of those charged are doing hard time, with the exception of the ring leader who goes to trial next year, the case appeared to be almost closed.
Then a bombshell from prosecutors; nine more arrests and for the first time in U.S. history a Chinese manufacturer busted for allegedly supplying the deadly dose to Bailey.
"A small case in little Grand Forks, North Dakota can catch up and go international. I would hope that people who are dealing it, ordering or supplying take notice," Weigel said.
The international roundup may send a strong message about the war on drugs. Those fighting the battle admit, though, that the war is far from over.
"I think it's a constant battle, I'd like to say we have made a lot of great strides, but obviously we know there is more out there and we will have to continue to battle those," Weigel said.
While prosecutors have brought nearly two dozen people to justice it won't bring back Jason and Laura's son, Bailey.
"You aren't going to arrest your way out of it, it's going to take a culture change," Weigel said.
"I don't think you can ever move on, I think it's going to live with you everyday, just need to cope with it in different ways," Jason Henke said.
While it is still hard for them to talk about, they hope by sharing his story they can save lives.
"You aren't Superman, the chances are you are going to die," Laura Henke said.
What remains unclear is if the alleged chinese manufacturer 38-year-old Jian Zhang will be extradited from China to the U.S. to face the charges.