It was rush hour on a Tuesday afternoon, and Morales made his way to a back corner seat and unfolded a tiny piece of foil with several blue shards of fentanyl. As the train started west, he heated the aluminum with a lighter and sucked in the smoke through a pipe fashioned from a ballpoint pen.
Doors opened and closed. A few passengers filed in and out. A grain of the opioid fell to the floor. He concentrated on trying to pick it up, then lost track, as his body went limp. His shoulders slumped and he slowly keeled forward.
By the time the train arrived at the Wilshire/Western station, Morales, 29, was doubled over and near motionless, his hand on the floor. The train operator walked out of the cabin, barely glancing at him as she passed — as if she encountered such scenes all the time.
Drug use is rampant in the Metro system. Since January, 22 people have died on Metro buses and trains, mostly from suspected overdoses — more people than all of 2022. Serious crimes soared 24% last year compared with the previous.