Sheriff’s Office: Byhalia football player had cocaine in system

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BYHALIA, Miss. — The Byhalia football player who died during an away game nearly two weeks ago had cocaine in his system at the time of his death, authorities have confirmed.

A spokesperson with the Marshall County Sheriff's Office told WREG a sample was taken from Dennis Mitchell at the Clarkesdale hospital where he died that came back positive for the drug. However, they couldn't say how much cocaine was found.

"The lab results from the hospital shows there was cocaine in his system. But as a factor of how much there was and a determination if whether that was the manner of death, all that will come from the pathologist as a result of the autopsy," Kelly McMillen, with the Marshall County Sheriff's Office said.

According to witnesses, Mitchell was playing when he came to the sideline and said he felt sick on August 24.

"He was saying he didn’t feel good, but just the type of person that he is, he didn’t want to let his team down, so he continued to keep playing. And it just spiraled downhill from there."

Mitchell's family was in Memphis when they got the call.

"I started praying," his sister, Toni Mitchell, said. "I was just thinking, ‘My brother’s strong. He’s going to get through this.’ Because he always do."

But by the time they got to the hospital, Mitchell was gone.

Roughly a week later, the entire football team was drug tested with parental permission as part of the investigation. McMillen said all the student-athletes tested negative for cocaine.

Investigators said they are now working to determine where the cocaine came from and are reaching out to the community to help find answers.

Drug experts we talked to said cocaine usage usually isn't high among high school students.

"It can cause all kinds of really negative heart conditions. It can cause strokes, a heart attack. What's even more dangerous, Fentanyl is now being added to make it more potent," Dr. Theodore Bender, Chief Executive officer Turning Point, said.

The goal now is to find where the cocaine that was apparently found in Mitchell's system came from.

When asked about possible policy or budget changes, McMillen said "I think this is kind of an eye-opener for a lot of people. I won't explore into that, but I think from what's happened there may be some other guidelines and some other decisions made as far as student athletes."

An official cause of death has not been determined.

Anyone with information is asked to contact the Byhalia Police Department or Marshall County Sheriff's Office.

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