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'I just miss him': Friends, family of victims raise awareness around dangers of fentanyl poisoning

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Posted at 5:19 PM, Sep 16, 2023

LEAVENWORTH, Kan. — Dozens of community members gathered at Haymarket Square in Leavenworth to share their stories of loss and to raise awareness around the dangers of fentanyl.

It was the first rally hosted by the Cruz4Life Foundation, an organization created by the parent of Cruz Burris, who died of fentanyl poisoning earlier this year.

“If we could save just one life with us being here, it’s all well worth it,” said Cruz Burris’ dad, Andy Burris, during a community prayer.

In its first year, the Leavenworth Fentanyl Rally was dedicated to honoring three young lives lost in Leavenworth County: Cruz Burris, Caleb Jackson and Desi’ree Washington.

“She was everything to me, she was my best friend,” said Washington’s mother, Kelly Garner.

Garner came home to find her 19-year-old daughter unresponsive in her bed. She later found out Washington took a pill she thought was Xanax.

“Our children are being deceived and being murdered,” said Garner. “People should be charged as murder because that’s what it is.”

Family and friends hope uniting in masses like this will help spread awareness about the dangers. In her speech, Caleb Jackson’s mother, Vanessa Jackson, encouraged parents to stay vigilant about social media.

“It is pure evil and it is in our backyards, and our kids are getting in touch with it through their phones — Snapchat,” said Vanessa Jackson.

Also in the audience was Garrett Fowler, Burris’ lifelong best friend. At just 16 years old, he has lost two people he loves to drugs.

“I lost my dad at two-months-old to hard drugs and he promised me that he would never touch them, yada, yada, yada. Just felt really disappointed and hurt,” said Fowler.

He says the disappointment continued with the lack of education regarding fentanyl in schools. Besides one presentation last year, in his words, “Nothing has changed.”

It is now his mission to make sure his dad and best friend did not die in vain.

“I just miss him. Wish he never touched it,” said Fowler.