Branford officers use caution in major drug bust

(Photo Courtesy: Branford Police Department)

BRANFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — A traffic stop turned into one of the largest drug busts in Branford history Wednesday afternoon.

27-year-old Carlos Hernandez-Salazar is now charged with possession with intent to sell after eight kilos of opioids were found in the trunk of a car stopped by police.

“The vehicle was from out of state and had very, very heavily tinted windows and I think that that’s what prompted the original stop,” said Captain Geoffrey Morgan with the Branford Police Department.

Officers pulled the car over as it exited Interstate 95 near exit 55. Hernandez-Salazar was in the passenger seat. A woman was driving and there were two children in the car as well. Captain Morgan said officers quickly determined something wasn’t right.

“The officers started asking a few questions, they could tell that they were nervous, kind of separated both of them for a few minutes and talked to them individually. Of course they couldn’t confirm or agree on where they were coming from or where they were going,” said Morgan.

Officers say the drugs, a combination of Fentanyl and Tramadol have a street value of $2-million.

Last year, 917 people died from opioid related overdoses in Connecticut, and more than half of those involved Fentanyl. The highly toxic drug has prompted the Federal Drug Enforcement Agency to change procedures on how police identify drugs during busts.

“Officers have to be very, very concerned about their own welfare should it become airborne. In many cases it’s so potent that should it get on the skin or the hands or in breathing of the officers that they too could suffer reactions from it,” said Morgan.

In this case police did not conduct field tests on the drugs. They were tested in a laboratory. Whether or not the drugs were meant to hit Branford’s streets remains to be seen but police say such a large bust most likely saved lives.

“16 to 17 pounds of narcotics, that’s a tremendous amount of narcotics and drugs. These opioids are taking the lives of many, many Americans who are either addicted or using illegal drugs,” said Morgan.

Officers determined the woman driving the car was unaware of the drugs and she is not facing any charges. Hernandez-Salazar is being held on $500,000 bond.