Unalaska resident charged with manslaughter in fatal fentanyl overdose

Unalaska Department of Public Safety
The City of Unalaska’s Department of Public Safety headquarters. (Berett Wilber/KUCB)

An Unalaska resident has been charged with manslaughter in connection with a fatal drug overdose in January.

Unalaska police say Francisco “Frankie” Garcia Santos, 40, provided pills containing fentanyl to Kieran Sean McCulley. McCulley, 32, of Boise, Idaho, was a crew member on the F/V Bulldog. He died of an overdose when the boat was docked in Unalaska.

Unalaska Deputy Police Chief Bill Simms said Santos was arrested Wednesday, May 3, in Unalaska, following an investigation by local police, the Coast Guard Investigative Service, and other federal agencies that Simms declined to name.

Santos was arraigned virtually Thursday on felony charges of manslaughter and misconduct involving a controlled substance in the second degree for manufacturing or delivering fentanyl, a powerful synthetic opioid.

It was not immediately clear whether Santos had a lawyer.

The arrest comes amid a fentanyl crisis spanning the state, which has been a factor in a wave of Unalaska deaths early this year. Last month Alaska State Troopers issued a warning to Mat-Su Borough residents after three overdose deaths in 24 hours, attributed to a lethal batch of illegal drugs likely containing fentanyl. That warning came a week after Gov. Mike Dunleavy asked the Legislature to approve second-degree murder charges against people who make or provide controlled substances used in fatal overdoses.

“I think this is a very good arrest,” said Simms. “And I think it should hopefully curb some of the drug activity within the community — and just put people on notice that if they do decide to deal drugs, there are consequences. And the police department will pursue these consequences vigorously.”

Santos is being held in Unalaska’s jail on $50,000 bail.

Simms said Santos will be transported to Anchorage “at some point” for further court proceedings. Santos’ next court appearance is scheduled for Aug. 1.

Meanwhile, local and federal investigators continue to work the case, and additional arrests are possible.

“Anytime we deal with drug dealers and stuff like that, there’s always going to be subsequent investigations, and there’s always going to be accomplices that we look for,” said Simms. “So the investigations are continuing, to establish and identify accomplices in the community.”

More broadly, Simms said authorities are trying to establish how much fentanyl moves through Unalaska and “address the concern appropriately.”

“We’re trying to put the best resources towards combating this very dangerous drug,” he said.

Simms stressed, however, that there is no active ongoing threat to the community, and he sought to reassure Unalaskans following visible police activity Thursday evening on Broadway Avenue. Simms said authorities were performing a follow-up search on Santos’ residence.

“I think there was some concern about community safety, and that was not the case,” said Simms. “It was just a matter of people seeing cops gathered at that apartment complex and thinking there’s something wrong, but it was under control the whole time.”

Laura Kraegel covers Unalaska and the Aleutian Islands for KUCB . Originally from Chicago, she first came to Alaska to work at KNOM, reporting on Nome and the Bering Strait Region. (laura@kucb.org / 907.581.6700)

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