'Difficulty breathing:' 2 men charged after deputy exposed to fentanyl during traffic stop on I-94

Joshua Zayac

WAUKESHA COUNTY -- Two men are facing charges after their vehicle was pulled over on I-94 Monday night, Feb. 26 after deviating from its lane. During a search of the vehicle, a deputy was exposed to white powder which later tested positive for fentanyl. Narcan had to be administered, and she had to be taken to the hospital.

Dewayne Veasy, 27, of Milwaukee faces one count of possession with intent to deliver narcotics, as party to a crime and one count of resisting or obstructing an officer.

Joshua Zayac, 26, of West Allis faces one count of possession with intent to deliver narcotics, as party to a crime and one count of carrying a concealed weapon.

Dewayne Veasy

According to a criminal complaint, on Feb. 26, a deputy on routine patrol on I-94 spotted a silver BMW sedan with temporary plates deviating from its lane. On I-94 westbound from Milwaukee County, the deputy saw the vehicle deviate on three separate occasions -- nearly side-swiping another vehicle at one point.

A traffic stop was initiated near Calhoun, and it was revealed that Zayac was the driver. Veasy was his passenger.

The complaint says Zayac was "extremely jittery" and "unwilling to make eye contact" with the deputy. He indicated he had "difficulty differentiating the white lane from the black pavement." He could not provide a "reasonable answer" when asked where he was coming from. When asked for insurance information he said he had insurance but didn't have the paperwork and wouldn't open the glove box. Based on this behavior, a K-9 was requested.

Joshua Zayac, Dewayne Veasy

A search of DOT records revealed Zayac had been in "approximately six crashes" in two years.

Joshua Zayac

When the K-9 arrived, the animal indicated on the vehicle and Zayac indicated "there was a small amount of marijuana in the center console and a firearm in the glove box.

A search of the vehicle revealed a marijuana cigarette and plastic tube in the center console, and a Ruger 9mm handgun, loaded with a bullet in the chamber. In the backseat, investigators located sandwich bags, baking soda, copper steel wool and straws cut into short pieces -- consistent with drug use. Under the front passenger seat there was a lock box, which Zayac and Veasy indicated they had no knowledge of. The complaint says the box was heavy, and in an effort to determine what was inside, a deputy "brought it up to her ear and shook it." That's when "a plume of white powder" came from a crack in the lock box. Within minutes, the deputy began having trouble breathing. She brought Veasy into her squad in an effort to get a date of birth and continued to have difficulty breathing to the point where Veasy "began screaming and banging on the door to get an other officer's attention that the deputy needed help."

Dewayne Veasy

The complaint says Narcan had to be administered and the deputy had to be taken to the hospital, along with another deputy, who exhibited less severe symptoms.

Further investigation revealed Veasy had a warrant out for his arrest through "Probation and Parole."

Agents with the Wisconsin Department of Justice's Division of Criminal Investigation arrived at the scene to obtain the contents of the safe for testing. The complaint says contents included glass pipes with burnt residue, marijuana, an object that appeared to be part of a vaping device, a blue pill, a large bag of a white, powdery substance, a baggie believed to contain a rock-like substance consistent with the appearance of meth, and a smaller baggie with a white rock-like substance.

The white powder tested positive for the presence of fentanyl -- 5.9 grams.

The suspected meth and white rock weren't tested.

Both Zayac and Veasy were taken to the hospital for medial clearance, and after field sobriety testing, Zayac was arrested for OWI, first offense.

The complaint says both stated they had no knowledge of the safe or its contents.

Waukesha County Sheriff Eric Severson spoke out about this case on Wednesday, Feb. 28.

Waukesha County Sheriff Eric Severson

"We never really know what we're dealing with when we see a white powder. The exposure to a fentanyl-type substance is just as deadly as a bullet, just as deadly as a car crash," Severson said.

Deputies already wear gloves and a mask, and squads are outfitted with automatic defibrillators with Narcan attached.

"Whatever call the officer or deputy is going on, they don't know necessarily know they're going to be in an environment where fentanyl exists. That's what's very unnerving. I want to do everything I can to minimize the opportunity for this to happen again," Severson said.

Severson said he's looking to add eye protection, paper booties and other precautions for deputies working near drugs.

Zayac and Veasy made their initial appearances in court on Wednesday, Feb. 28. Cash bond was set at $5,000 for each. Veasy is due back in court on March 8 for a preliminary hearing. Zayac will be in court on March 9 for a status conference.