SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Three men were found dead Thursday near a school in San Francisco's historic Haight-Ashbury neighborhood, and authorities are investigating the deaths as drug-related.
San Francisco Police Officer Robert Rueca says officers received a call at 4:35 a.m. Thursday to check on three unresponsive men on the street. Officers attempted life-saving measures and called medics, but the three men could not be revived.
There is no evidence of any foul play and the deaths do not appear to be weather-related, Rueca said. He said police do not know where the men lived, but it was not at the location where they were found. San Francisco has been going through a cold snap and authorities have increased overnight shelter space for the week.
Rachael Kagan, a spokeswoman with the San Francisco Department of Public Health, said the medical examiners' office is investigating the deaths as drug-related. The department is worried the men died from poisoning by fentanyl, a cheap and potent opioid.
"We will be contacting health care providers and the drug user community to ensure they are aware of the dangers of fentanyl and know how to take precautions," she said.
Residents and workers were saddened by the deaths but noted they occurred in a neighborhood known for its homelessness and drugs. The area also is a popular destination for tourists drawn to the nostalgic scene of the 1960-70s hippie culture.
The bodies were found near The Urban School, a private $45,000-a-year high school one block away from Haight Street and its colorful shops selling tie-dye T-shirts and pot paraphernalia. The school sits across from a church on a residential street of well-kept houses and apartment buildings, and next to a preschool where kids could be heard playing.
Urban School spokeswoman Kristen Bailey said the school's security guard found the bodies and alerted police. She said in a statement that the three men have "no connection to Urban, and the police assure us there is no danger or threat to our students, or faculty and staff."
Debra Shaw, who works as a processor at Goodwill, said she walks by the school all the time and knows that drugs are a problem. "It's horrible," she said. "I have seen people come into the dressing room and shoot up and I have took the needles out and threw them away."
San Francisco has also grappled with an entrenched homelessness problem despite its thriving tech economy.