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Durango man who scattered fentanyl pills on Main Avenue sentenced to federal prison

Suspect was fleeing from law enforcement when he lost control of drugs
A bag of fentanyl pills confiscated by the Farmington Police Department. (Courtesy of Farmington Police Department)

A Durango man who fled from law enforcement, struck a deputy while driving away and scattered fentanyl pills on Main Avenue in Durango was sentenced Wednesday to 10 years in federal prison, according to a news release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Colorado.

Robert James Russell Simmons, 37, was in possession of a baggie containing blue M-30 fentanyl pills and about 840 grams of a methamphetamine mixture – or roughly 3,360 individual doses, according to the release and a plea agreement Simmons signed June 6 with the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

He pleaded guilty to possession with intent to distribute more than 500 grams of a methamphetamine mixture. District Court Judge Gordon P. Gallagher presided over the sentencing hearing at a federal courtroom in Durango.

According to the release, the Southwest Drug Task Force observed a drug deal involving Simmons on Sept. 7 in a parking lot near the Durango Transit Center.

Two deputies in marked patrol vehicles parked near a 2011 black Dodge Charger, with Simmons in the driver’s seat. One of the deputies asked Simmons to exit the vehicle, but he put the vehicle in reverse and stepped on the gas pedal, causing the driver’s side mirror to strike the deputy’s arm, left knee and his patrol vehicle, according to the plea agreement.

Simmons sped out of the transit center parking lot and headed east on East Eighth Avenue. He then quickly turned right onto Narrow Gauge Avenue, passing “do not enter” signs and traveling the wrong way on a one-way road.

Halfway down the block, the vehicle encountered an oncoming truck. Simmons reacted by turning into a parking lot, where he collided with a parked Toyota Tacoma, according to the release.

He then fled on foot carrying a bag of small, blue pills containing fentanyl, according to the release. He ran to Main Avenue and threw the bag of pills into a trash can. Shortly thereafter, he flagged down a Durango Police Department officer and surrendered without further incident.

“Law enforcement later found a trail of blue pills that went from the site of the car crash to the trash can,” the release says. “Pills were also located on Main Avenue and the nearby sidewalk.”

Law enforcement later obtained a search warrant for the vehicle and found 840 grams of a meth mixture in the vehicle, according to the release.

According to the Drug Enforcement Administration, six out of 10 fentanyl pills tested contain a potentially lethal dose of fentanyl.

“Durango is a little safer today with this drug dealer (behind) bars,” U.S. Attorney Cole Finegan said in the release. “Fentanyl is extraordinarily dangerous. We will continue to prosecute the dealers who seek to profit from this poison and endanger everyone in our community.”

Southwest Drug Task Force commander Joey LaVenture said the agency is committed to keeping La Plata County safe. He did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

“We commend the work of our deputies, officers and federal law enforcement partners in this prosecution of this dangerous fentanyl dealer,” LaVenture said in a news release.


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