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Michael Del Puppo



Michael Del Puppo began his career in law enforcement in 1970, after returning from service in Vietnam. He started at the City of Sanger police department and then transferred to the City of Selma, California where he worked for 20 years. He next worked for the U.S. Marshall Service, where he is still employed as a Special Deputy U.S. Marshall. He also serves as president of the Fresno County Fire Protection District.

Mr. Del Puppo completed the Hubbard detoxification program in 1983, seeking help after a dramatic work–related exposure.



I started working patrol, made detective after one year, and then worked my way through the ranks into administration. Then I became a multi-agency narcotics task force commander. My main toxic exposure was an exposure to PCP on a drug raid at a residence. As we were serving the search warrant, the perpetrator was alerted that we were coming.

He grabbed a couple of bottles out of the refrigerator and ran out the back door. I was in pursuit of him, and tackled him in the back yard, but he was able to uncap one of the bottles and throw liquid PCP in my face. My opinion was that he was trying to blind me. It has alcohol and ether in it, and I believe he was trying to make me let go of him.

At the time not a lot was known about PCP or the effects from being exposed to it. They took me to a hospital in Selma. They had no clue what to do, so I was transferred up to Fresno Community Hospital, the poison control center for the San Joaquin Valley. There they just rinsed my eyes out with saline solution. One of the problems was that they never took my shirt off. It was soaked with PCP.

I had a full out-of-body experience while I was there, just simply because it was just absorbing into me. I had it on my face. I had it in my mouth. It gets into the mucus membrane, so I was pretty well intoxicated. I remember walking down the hall, but in fact I was strapped down on the gurney in the emergency room. I was telling them, “yeah, I’ll be okay, I’ll be okay.” I remember it very vividly. |

Nowadays, oh my gosh, you go through a decontamination unit where you are hosed and rinsed down; and the rinse water’s even transported offsite because it’s hazardous material. We never did any decontamination at all. They never washed me with soap and water. It was probably ten, twelve hours later when somebody took my clothes off and exchanged them for a gown.

Sergeant Bob Hussey of the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department, one of the PCP experts in Southern California, heard what happened to me because it made national news. He got ahold of my Chief and said, “Hey, you know, you need to relieve him of his duty. You need to start doing some toxicology work on him in regard to the levels of the PCP.”

Immediately, my Chief relieved me of my duty. He took my weapon from me and put me on paid leave. I went up to a center in Fresno every couple of days to have blood drawn.

The coroner’s office did the toxicology screening. It took several weeks. Their gas spectrometer showed “zero.” I knew it wasn’t true because I wasn’t feeling normal. I really knew something was wrong when I started exerting myself, doing physical labor around my ranch. I’d start getting lightheaded. I had been quite healthy up until that point.

It was about a year, I believe, before I actually got into the detox program. I admit that I definitely had some out-of-body experiences. I know that I definitely had it [PCP] coming out of me. I had funny tastes in my mouth. You tingle all over and you just don’t feel right. A couple of times, I felt like I was floating down the hallway. To me, those experiences definitely showed that there were levels that were coming out.

I felt a hundred percent better after I finished the program. I had energy. I was able to do things. I wasn’t moody. I had been very irritable and all that went away. My quality of life was back to normal.

When the sun comes out, it energizes you. When it’s a foggy day you just don’t have energy, and that’s how I had been feeling. Once the fog lifted, the sun came back out. My anxiety was gone. I knew that I could get on with life and that life would be fine from now on. I was able to get my Peace Officer powers back.

I finished the program in 1983 and I have not had any residual effects from the PCP since then. Another law enforcement agency hired me, the U.S. Marshall Service, and I went through all kinds of screening. I passed everything.

Right after my chemical exposure I started teaching for the DEA, the Drug Enforcement Administration, and also for the Department of Justice. I’ve taught at about five different community colleges. I teach basic and advanced narcotics investigation. I’ve taught thousands of officers of what could happen to you out there with the chemicals that are out there, like with PCP, methamphetamine, and all these others; because all of these things can absorb into your system. I feel that I have saved some lives.

My door was always open 24/7 to help anybody who came in contact with a chemical. Not just PCP, but any chemical exposure. Meth is still a big thing, particularly here in the Central Valley. It doesn’t matter what it is, if a chemical is harmful to the body you need to get that chemical out of your system.

I think the program was well worth going through. I look at it this way: there is no telling where I would be today if I did not go through that program.

Did it work? I’d tell anybody to this day, “Yes, it worked.”