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Star-college running back-turned-California cop died of ‘fentanyl toxicity’ at his San Jose home


A star college running back-turned-California cop died of a fentanyl overdose last month, the local coroner has revealed.

De’Jon Packer, a 24-year-old rookie with the San Jose Police Department and former college football star, was found unresponsive during a welfare check at his Milpitas home on March 13. 

He was pronounced dead on the scene by firefighters and his fellow officers.

The Santa Clara County Medical Examiner confirmed he died of ‘fentanyl toxicity,’ according to NBC Bay Area, despite his family arguing that ‘he was heavily against’ illicit drugs.

His death now remains under investigation by Milpitas police amid allegations that he had partied with other police officers the night before.

San Jose Police Chief Anthony Mata said his department is cooperating with the Milpitas investigation, adding that it does not condone drug use.

He said the department is now offering substance abuse prevention training for its officers as well as emotional support services.

‘We need to be mindful of the fact that we are not immune to issues that plague society, in this case substance abuse,’ he said in a statement to NBC Bay Area.

‘As humans, we are not perfect, and mistakes will be made.’ 

De’Jon Packer, a rookie police officer with the San Jose Police Department, died of a fentanyl overdose in March, the local coroner revealed

Packer had just finished his first year on the police force when he had died. Prior to that, he played three seasons as a running back for San Jose State University

Packer had just finished his first year on the police force when he had died. Prior to that, he played three seasons as a running back for San Jose State University

In a statement, Packer’s family said they were shocked an heartbroken upon learning of his cause of death, saying there was no evidence he was involved in illicit drugs ‘and he was heavily against it, as evidenced by his chosen profession,’ family spokesperson Patrice Barrera told Mercury News.

‘It is our understanding that even the smallest trace of fentanyl is lethal and can cause harm, and our family is following the Milpitas Police Department’s investigation of the circumstances surrounding his death.’

She added that Packer ‘joined the San Jose Police Department to make a difference in his community.

‘Above all things De’Jon was special, brought good to the world and left a positive impact everywhere he went and on everyone he met,’ Barrera said. ‘That is his legacy, not this.’ 

The night before Packer’s death, sources with direct knowledge of the case told NBC Bay Area he was at a party with fellow police officers.

Those sources said the officers involved could face an internal investigation, and added that a criminal probe may also be in the works.

In his statement, Mata said ‘any allegations of illegal drug use by a San Jose police officer is concerning.

‘There are no free passes for police officers, and we will not make excuses,’ he said, noting: ‘When an officer violates the public trust, on or off duty, I will hold them accountable. I have stated  that since the day I took the oath of leading this great agency as Chief of Police.

‘The public demands, and I expect, ethical behavior, accountability and professionalism from all who wear the uniform.

‘I will continue to ensure we keep the trust of the City, and the community members we serve,’ Mata vowed.

Prior to becoming a police officer, Packer was a star football running back for San Jose State University, and scored the winning touchdown in the school’s underdog victory against the Arkansas Razorbacks in 2019

Packer had just finished his first year on the police force when he had died.

Prior to that, he had played three seasons as a running back for San Jose State University and scored the winning touchdown in the school’s underdog victory against the Arkansas Razorbacks in 2019. 

Following the news of his , the San Jose State University football team put out a statement saying  ‘the San José State Football family has suffered a great loss,’ and coach Brent Brennan said: ‘We all love De’Jon Packer and we will miss his infectious smile.’

He told NBC Bay Area: ‘He had this big smile, and was one of the most well-liked guys on our team,’ adding that he was ‘just a really, really special young man and was in such a great place in his life.’ 

Hundreds of Spartan football players, San Jose police officers and friends and family gathered for his funeral on March 26, when Mayor Sam Liccardo eulogized Packer, saying ‘His impact was far and wide.’ 



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