MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - A federal grand jury indicted a Memphis man for distributing drugs that killed a 21-year-old.
Investigators said Cortez Armstrong, 30, sold a variety of narcotics, including fentanyl, to 21-year-old Z.R.
Z.R. died from a fentanyl overdose on October 10, 2016 on Shelby Drive.
Armstrong faces at least 20 years in prison, with a chance of a life sentence.
"Pursuant to federal law, a person who distributes fentanyl which causes the death of the buyer is criminally responsible for the buyer's death even though the drug dealer did not intend to harm the buyer," said acting U.S. Attorney Lawrence J. Laurenzi. "Last year the Mid-South lost far too many lives to drug overdoses. Law enforcement will not sit idly by while the death toll continues to rise."
Critics of the conviction said only users should be punished since they willingly used the drugs provided to them by dealers, but advocates said the dealers are the ones behind the smoking guns.
"What we're actually seeing now is accountability," said Becky Farruggia from Hearts of Hope and Healing. "Because if there's no accountability it's going to continue on and on. They do not care about the lives they are taking, families they're destroying, they don't care. All they care about is bring me that cash."
In this case, Armstrong could face 20 years to life.
It's a message Laurenzi wants to send to other drug dealers.
"Arrest them bring them into court and hold them accountable, and we will seek the maximum penalty the law allows us to seek in these cases," Laurenzi said.
It's hope for Hearts and Healing and for Farruggia personally. Her daughter flatlined after an overdose, and she believes the dealer is still out pushing drugs on others.
"I'd love for them to find him and charge him," Farruggia said. "I keep that in my prayer that he is found and stopped."