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A sheriff's anti-heroin video draws comparisons to ISIS

A Florida sheriff’s anti-heroin video draws comparisons to ISIS propaganda

There’s a new sheriff in town in Lake County, Florida, and he’s launching an insurgency against heroin. But Sheriff Peyton Grinnell’s first attempt to strike terror into the hearts of local drug dealers looks a lot like a terrorist propaganda video.

Elected in a landslide victory this past election, Grinnell released a Facebook video on April 7 that features him standing at a podium flanked by armed deputies clad in tactical gear, black ski masks, and sunglasses. In the 94-second clip set to ominous music, Grinnell announces that he has recently received “several phone calls from citizens in this county concerned about the number of overdoses related to heroin.”

He then proceeds to issue a warning “to the dealers that are pushing this poison”:

Enjoy looking over your shoulder, constantly wondering if today is the day we come for you. Enjoy trying to sleep tonight wondering if tonight is the night our SWAT team blows your front door off the hinges. We are coming for you. If our agents can show the nexus between you the pusher of poison and the person that overdoses and dies, we will charge you with murder. We are coming for you. Run.

The clip has more than 600,000 views as of Monday morning, and many comments on the post point out the similarities between the masked cops and the balaclava-clad fighters that have become a familiar feature of terrorist propaganda.

“This looks eerily similar to an ISIS video,” one viewer wrote. “America’s Taliban,” added another. While dozens of people wondered whether the caliphate had established a new outpost in suburban Orlando, a handful of commenters expressed support for the sheriff’s take-no-prisoners approach. Mirroring a national trend, fatal overdoses in Lake County reportedly skyrocketed from 7 in 2015 to 32 last year, making drugs a key issue.

The sheriff’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Monday, but Lake County’s Daily Commercial newspaper reported that it was the first video created by the sheriff’s newly formed “Community Engagement Unit.”

“Although it was the first, I’m happy with the result,” Lt. Michael Marden, the head of the unit, told the paper.

Critics of militarized policing were quick to pounce on Grinnell’s video, noting that it’s yet another example of cops thinking they can arrest their way out of the opioid crisis without offering treatment or other alternatives to users.

The sheriff’s threat to deploy the SWAT team is especially troublesome considering recent scrutiny of deaths caused by SWAT raids in low-level drug busts. In 2015, officers in SWAT gear fatally shot a 26-year-old Lake County man inside his home despite having no warrant and no reason to suspect that he had committed a crime.

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