A Florida sheriff stood among his deputies — clad in all-black tactical gear, masks and sunglasses — describing his plan to combat a devastating opioid epidemic.
In a new public service announcement released last week by Lake County Sheriff's Office, Sheriff Peyton Grinnell took a stern approach in talking about the heroin problem in his community, telling dealers to "run."
"Over the last month or so, I've had several phone calls from citizens in this county concerned about the number of overdoses related to heroin. I want our citizens to know that I'm aware of this serious issue," he said.
Then came his warning.
"To the dealers that are pushing this poison, I have a message for you: We're coming for you. As a matter of fact, our undercover agents have already bought heroin from many of you. We are simply awaiting the arrest warrants to be finalized," Grinnell added.
"Enjoy looking over your shoulder, constantly wondering if today's the day we come for you. Enjoy trying to sleep tonight, wondering if tonight's the night our SWAT team blows your front door off the hinges. We are coming for you. If our agents can show the nexus between you, the pusher of poison, and the person that overdoses and dies, we will charge you with murder. We are coming for you — run."
The sheriff could not immediately be reached for comment.
Last month, a major study found that heroin use — which has been at the epicenter of a ruthless and relentless opioid epidemic sweeping the country — has increased fivefold over a decade, and dependence on the drug has tripled.
The researchers said that the sharpest increase in heroin use and addiction was among young, white men with lower education and income levels.
In the few years since the survey ended, the opioid epidemic has tightened its grip on an expanding portion of the U.S. population.
Synthetic opioids — including heroin and its deadlier cousin fentanyl — are the main drivers of overdose deaths across the United States, according to the CDC.
Opioid deaths have continued to spike, with more than 33,000 fatalities across the country in 2015 — the highest figure in recent history, according to data released by the CDC. As the Washington Post's Christopher Ingraham reported, that marked an increase of nearly 5,000 deaths from 2014. Deaths involving synthetic opiates, such as fentanyl, rose by nearly 75 percent from 2014 to 2015.
Nearly 13,000 people died of heroin overdoses that year, according to the data.
Behind the data are real stories about a battle against drugs gripping the nation.
Children have become innocent victims; some have seen their parents shoot up and overdose, occasionally with fatal consequences. Others have unwittingly and unwillingly faced overdoses themselves.
Last month, four children woke up in their home in Ohio and found their parents dead. One child told a 911 dispatcher, "My mom's on the floor and my stepdad's basically pale and they're not waking up."
Authorities believed at the time the parents overdosed on heroin cut with fentanyl.
The public service announcement from the Lake County Sheriff's Office has been viewed more than 600,000 times, with at least one commenter comparing it to the Islamic State's beheading videos.
"ISIS just released another god—- video. Oh," Paul Szoldra from Military and Defense Insider wrote on Facebook while sharing the video. In the comment section, he added: "Some sheriffs are in law enforcement. Some others are trying to get on Fox and Friends."
The Lake County Sheriff's video drew mixed responses from social media users.
"Are you guys intentionally trying to look like comic book villains?" one wrote.
"What's with all the negativity!" another interjected. "They can't show their identity because are the ones playing the roll of being buyers or dealers. Grow up. Let them do their job protecting us and our families and friends. I've lost family to these thug dealers. They don't care. They just want the money. Get it!!!!"
"It is your job to serve your community, not terrorize them," one commenter wrote. "This is an embarrassment to the force."
"Lol," another said, "my son said that he wanted to be a cop so I showed him this, now he wants to be a pokemaster. Progress!