By Michael Abeyta

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (CBS4)- Both federal and local law enforcement officials in Colorado say the state is being overrun with fentanyl. And it’s killing Coloradans at an alarming rate.

“Overdose deaths in Colorado have led every state in the nation except Alaska,” said 4th Judicial District Attorney Michael Allen at a news conference on Thursday.

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Pulling out a bag of seized fentanyl pills, DEA Special Agent in Charge Brian Besser said, “Each one of these pills to me is a loaded bullet.”

Besser and Allen, along with U.S. Attorney for the District of Colorado Cole Finegan, FBI Special Agent Michael Schneider and El Paso County Law Enforcement Officials, spoke at a news conference Thursday morning in Colorado Springs to warn the community fentanyl is prevalent and deadly.

They say it’s not killing who you may think.

“The soccer mom. Your neighbor,” said Besser.

“We’re not talking about 55-year-old multi-decade drug addicts,” said El Paso County Coroner Dr. Leon Kelley. “We’re talking about kids who make mistakes. It’s almost the definition of youth, we do dumb things. We’ve all been there, but we are living in a world right now where kids get one chance.”

From 2019 to 2020, Colorado saw a 54% increase in opioid-related overdose deaths; 540 specifically involved fentanyl.

Preliminary data from 2021 shows 896 deaths related to fentanyl, a 66% increase. Police, firefighters, and coroners say they saw this coming.

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“This is one of those times when I wish I was wrong.”

El Paso Counter Coroner Dr. Leon Kelly told CBS affiliate KKTV in September 2021 his office saw a large spike in fentanyl deaths. Back then he predicted it would only get worse. In 2022, it seems his prophecy has been fulfilled.

“This is one of those times when I wish I was wrong,” he said Thursday. “It’s here now, we’re living in it every single day.”

Law enforcement says they to warn everyone they are at risk. Even if you think you aren’t.

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To illustrate how prevalent fentanyl is in Colorado, Besser pulled out 20,000 pills from his briefcase that he says were seized two years ago.

“Two years ago this case in DEA would have been considered significant,” he said motioning to the bags of pills. “The Front Range Task Force with DEA has seized 10 times this amount this week alone.”

Everyone from the Colorado Springs Police Department to the FBI and DEA say they are stepping up enforcement and community outreach. They had a message to drug dealers Thursday: they’re coming.

“The people that peddle this poison are evil,” said Agent Besser.

They also said the most important thing people can do to protect themselves is to learn about the drug and if you are a parent to talk to your children about it because it’s in our schools. They said to keep an eye on their social media and ask tough questions.

Michael Abeyta