Here’s What Happens When You OD… A True Story Of My Night With The Salt Lake Police Dept.

Last night, I was given the opportunity to “ride along” with the Salt Lake City Police Department’s “Pioneer Division”

I was teamed up with Officer Mike Ruff.  An 11-year veteran of the dept. and quite honestly, the guy you want every cop to be like.   He’s professional and respectful of everyone he comes into contact with, be they, victims or suspects.   It’s also very easy to see that he loves working in Patrol.   I met up with Officer Ruff shortly after 9 pm and had a quick briefing at Pioneer Division Headquarters with the rest of the graveyard officers in the area before we set out for our night.

It was EXACTLY like this…

Honestly speaking, it was a slow night in SLC.   It’s late August, warm outside, and compared to the ride along I took with the same officer, in the same area 9 months ago, it’s a different neighborhood.   The North Temple District has a ways to go before it’s “cleaned up”, but recent efforts to improve the area are easy to spot for a regular cat like me.

I’m mentally preparing myself for the dead body.  I’ve seen awful things before so I’m already compartmentalizing as we pull up and are first on the scene.

But every city has problems, and about an hour into the night, there was a call about a possible fatal overdose in a nearby subdivision.  The radio squawked out the street address, just like you see on TV.  The dispatcher calmly passing along information about the victim. Male, white, 20’s, unconscious, not breathing. Instinctively, I’m mentally preparing myself for the dead body.  I’ve seen awful things before so I’m already compartmentalizing as we pull up and are first on the scene.  The sounds of the Fire Department siren wailing a few streets away let us know they’re not far behind. The front door was being held open for us by the victim’s mother… sobbing.. .terrified.  Wondering what is happening inside her home.  There are family photos on the wall, memories of vacations on the shelves.  The TV is on, and it’s pretty clear they had no idea what had been happening in the bedroom at the top of the stairs.

At this moment I realize that I’m going to see something more horrific than death.   I’m witnessing their foundation crumble.  Keeping myself in “work mode” I follow Officer Ruff, and the two other Police Officers arrived shortly after we did upstairs, and on the floor is a man wearing a t-shirt, basketball shorts, and one flip-flop on his left foot.  Our victim.  He’s on his back, his body is lifeless and has no color.  Eyes rolled back in his head and a needle lies uncapped on the green carpet next to him.

(stock photo)

I notice one of our X96 stickers stuck to his wall above his CD collection.  I wonder if it was me, or one of my co-workers that gave it to him.  Officer Ruff quickly reaches into his vest pocket and says calmly, “hitting him with Narcan” as he puts a nasal spray in the man’s nose.

Downstairs family members comfort a now frantic mother when a faint gurgle erupts from the victim’s mouth. He’s breathing. Almost instantly his entire body has color. He’s alive.

People don’t realize how much this happens in our neighborhoods.

It’s been less than 2 minutes since we entered this family’s home and the Fire Department is racing up the stairs to administer additional aid.  They sit the guy up.  He groans painfully as the Firefighters tell him calmly, “hey man, wake up. You overdosed” to which the man replies, “Sorry” and continues to moan in what appears to be agonizing pain.  It seems the man is going to be okay for now, but the family has been scarred. The man declines a visit to the hospital and signs a waiver declining further treatment. As quickly as we entered, we leave. We’re off to another call. People don’t realize how much this happens in our neighborhoods. Every day, police officers are showing up to houses to greet people on what will likely be the worst day of their lives. It’s eye-opening.

Each SLCPD Officer carries NARCAN to prevent death by overdose.

Ruff reveals afterward that this was the first time he’s used the Narcan on someone. He seems unaware that he just literally saved the man’s life. When I tell him this, he dismisses it with, “The Fire Department would have saved him if I didn’t.” Maybe. Maybe not.  I can honestly say this, a year ago this man would not have survived. I would be telling a much darker story today. Luckily, this guy’s mom was able to get help on scene and even luckier, that help was equipped and available for the job.

All things considered, there were nearly a dozen first responders in this house as well as a family that was beyond scared for his safety. Not to mention the embarasment they’ll no doubt be feeling today when the neighborhood starts asking what happened. All because of one dude’s selfish actions and addiction.

Since this kid had an X96 sticker on his wall, it’s likely he’s reading this. So to you I say:

There are people that care about you. Get your shit together.

For you and anyone else, the Substance Abuse hotline can help. Call 1-800-662-HELP (4357)

Or go to

A big thanks to Officer Mike Ruff and his fellow officers in the Salt Lake Police Department.  Namely, Pioneer Division for giving me a chance to see your work up close.  If you haven’t thanked a cop lately, you should.

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