Mom of Portland teen who died from accidental fentanyl overdose sues alleged drug dealer

Published: Sep. 26, 2022 at 10:01 PM PDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

PORTLAND Ore. (KPTV) - The mom of a Portland teen who accidentally overdosed on fentanyl-laced pills is now suing the alleged drug trafficker. Kerry Cohen says her son Griffin Hoffmann had a big heart and loved life.

“He was my favorite person in the world,” said Cohen. “Being around him was only enjoyable. He had a huge heart, cared a ton about his friends and social justice. He was a huge tennis star and it was something that he was really proud of that he was just getting better and better at. He was going to teach others. He was just a great kid. A great kid loved by so many and liked by so many.”

SEE ALSO: Overdose survivors warn the Portland community about the dangers of fentanyl

A memorial was set up at the Glenhaven Park tennis courts, right next to McDaniel High School where Griffin was a sophomore.

Cohen says like many, the pandemic hit her son pretty hard. She knew he had been experimenting with different drugs like marijuana and Percocet, but she says they had open conversations about it.

“I feel like it’s important to note that he was just a normal teenager,” said Cohen.

One Monday morning in March, Griffin’s dad went to wake him up for school, but found him unresponsive. Cohen says she called 911, but she knew her son was already gone. He was just 16 years old.

“It was horrible,” said Cohen. “We saw him die.”

After EMTs got to the scene, other agencies and officials began showing up as well, including police and the Attorney General, according to Cohen.

“After a little bit it was being treated like a crime scene,” said Cohen. “It became very clear that this wasn’t just a loss for us, but that he had been killed.”

Investigators determined pills found in Griffin’s room that at first glance appeared to be prescription pills, were actually laced with fentanyl. Several weeks later, authorities say they were able to trace the pills back to 24-year-old Manuel Antonio Souza Espinoza. He now faces several federal charges, as well as a wrongful death lawsuit filed on behalf of Griffin.

Cohen says the arrest and the lawsuit won’t take away the pain of their loss, but it’s better knowing where the drugs came from.

“It’s better than the alternative,” said Cohen. “I know a few other families, who are in this same situation, who had reached out to me when they had learned what happened to our family and most of the time they don’t find the connection. The pain obviously doesn’t change but at least the whole thing is less static. I don’t think it’s useful or helpful in my own healing, although there’s not really going to be healing, but it’s not helpful to me.”

SEE ALSO: 92K fentanyl pills, cocaine, meth seized by Multnomah County deputies

She urges parents and guardians to have conversations with their children about what they could potentially get their hands on.

“It’s normal for kids to experiment, but right now there is poison out there that makes experimenting not anywhere as safe as it once was,” said Cohen. “These are bait-and-switch. That’s why they, the Attorney General’s Office, are treating this case not as a drug deal, but as a homicide. Because that’s what is happening. These people are distributing poison that will kill people.”