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Man arrested after fatal overdoses in New Haven was school custodian, now on unpaid leave

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NEW HAVEN–Less than a week after 17 people were poisoned and three others died from fentanyl overdoses, one of the three men who police say is responsible has been placed on unpaid leave from his job at a local school.

Steven Whaley was the assistant building manager at the Lincoln Bassett School, a kindergarten through sixth grade school, before he was placed on unpaid leave on Tuesday, June 28.

The school said in a statement that Whaley is primarily a night custodian at the school, where he’s worked for more than 10 years. He had minimal contact with students.

“While Whaley has the right to due process regarding his employment, student safety remains a top priority for the school district, and he has been placed on unpaid leave until additional information from the investigation becomes available. At this time, there are no indications that students have had any exposure to this incident and we will continue to ensure all students within our school walls have a safe educational environment,” the school said, in part, in a statement.

The school said it and the district are cooperating with the police investigation and will reevaluate Whaley’s employment as new information comes to light.

New Haven police confirmed Monday that 17 people in the city were poisoned by fentanyl, a synthetic opioid, last week. An additional three died. Most of the patients thought they were buying cocaine, and many had never taken an opiate before. Fentanyl is 100 times more powerful than heroin, already a strong opiate.

Whaley and the two other suspects allegedly supplied drugs to at least 12 of the victims, and at least two of the victims who died.