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San Jose State football star, beloved new San Jose police officer dies from fentanyl overdose

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Kayla Jimenez

Bay Area News Group

San Jose police Officer De’Jon Packer, whose death last month stunned his work colleagues and many in the community, died from a fentanyl overdose, the Santa Clara County Medical Examiner’s Office said Saturday.

Packer, 24, a former running back for the San Jose State Spartan football team, was found dead at his Milpitas home on March 13 by Milpitas police.

Following news of his death, hundreds of Spartan football players, San Jose police officers and family and friends gathered March 26 at Redemption Church for an emotional funeral service to commemorate him.

“His impact was far and wide,” San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo told mourners that day.

NBC Bay Area reported Saturday that “multiple sources with direct knowledge of the case” told the news organization Packer was at a party with fellow police officers the night before he died.

In a statement released Saturday afternoon, San Jose police Chief Anthony Mata confirmed the television station’s report.

“This behavior is not something we condone, and we will continue to assist Milpitas PD with their investigation,” Mata said.

“We need to be mindful of the fact that we are not immune to issues that plague society, in this case substance abuse. As humans we are not perfect, and mistakes will be made. Officer wellness is paramount and a priority at the agency,” Mata said, adding that police officers deal with or are exposed to trauma at a higher rate than the average citizen.

“Any allegation of illegal drug use by a San Jose Police Officer is concerning. There are no free passes for police Officers, and we will not make excuses,” he said.

“The public demands and I expect ethical behavior, accountability and professionalism from all who wear the uniform. I will continue to ensure we keep the trust of the City, and the community members we serve,” Mata wrote.

Mata said the department has scheduled substance abuse prevention skills training for its personnel, “not just for themselves, but also for recognizing the signs for those around us, and how to get help,”

“We will not waiver from keeping our Officers well, not just physically but emotionally,” he said.

By former accounts of the police department, Packer was thriving as a new officer. He graduated from the police academy in February 2021.

And for his fellow officers and football teammates — Packer is still widely remembered for scoring a winning touchdown against the Arkansas Razorbacks in 2019 and community leadership —  the death remains a big loss.

“DeJon was a wonderful person and will forever be a part of the Spartan family. We miss him deeply and our thoughts are with his family,” Brent Brennan, the team’s head coach, told this news organization Saturday in an email.

Check back for updates.

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