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Brian Nestande’s cause of death was fentanyl & cocaine overdose, autopsy report reveals

Former local state Assemblymember Brian Nestande died of an overdose of fentanyl and cocaine, an autopsy report revealed, as first reported by the Uken Report.

Dr. Scott Luzi, who performed the autopsy, wrote in the report that Nestande died of "multiple substance intoxication" after the toxicology report identified a "designer form of fentanyl and a cocaine metabolite in his blood."

Nestande, 60, was found dead in his home in Palm Desert on March 6, 2024.

According to the Uken Report, citing the autopsy report, Steven Hernandez, mayor of Coachella and chief of staff to Riverside County Supervisor Manuel Perez, was the person who found Nestande's body.

Hernandez told investigators that Nestande was last seen alive three days prior when they met with breakfast with other friends. He reported that Nestande acted normal and had not had any complaints.

He went to go check on Nesntande after he and his friends noted that they hadn't heard from him in a few days.

Hernandez sent a statement to News Channel 3 following the release of the autopsy report:

“I was raised in a family that looks after one another. Having worked so closely with him over the years, Brian became like a brother. I was worried and would go looking for him again in a heartbeat.

Brian was a great man. He is missed and his impact on me and on the community lives on. His selfless service to our region must be remembered.”

Nestande represented the Coachella Valley in the California State Assembly from 2008 until 2014. He was in public service throughout his life, beginning his career in the early 90s with former Rep. Michael Huffington, R-Santa Barbara.

In 1994, Nestande managed the successful Congressional campaign of then-Palm Springs Mayor Sonny Bono. He was Bono’s Chief of Staff until his death in early 1998. Nestande was chief of staff for Rep. Mary Bono from 1998-2000.

Mary Bono issued a statement on Nestande's passing:

"I am saddened by Brian's death but I will always remember him for his love of his family above all else and his desire to serve his community"

Nestande left politics in the early to mid-2000s to form a government relations firm in Palm Desert.

In 2014, Nestande ran for Congress, facing off against Rep. Dr. Raul Ruiz in his first reelection campaign.

Nestande was known for his ability to bring people together across party lines.

“The amount of people he impacted positively and it was really the spirit of working together to solve problems for the people. That's what Brian is always about. And I think, you know, that's just been evidenced by the people who showed up here today," Assemblymember Greg Wallis, who also served as Nestande's campaign manager in 2014, said at Nestande's funeral.

Nestande is survived by his wife, Palm Desert City Councilmember Gina, son Hayden, daughter Sophia, stepchildren Sadie, Tad, Mason, Molly, and Savana.

We are working to obtain a copy of the full autopsy report. Stay with News Channel 3 for continuing updates.

Preliminary data released by the Riverside County Department of Public Health earlier this year showed that there were 388 confirmed fentanyl-related fatalities countywide in 2023, a 23% decline from 2022, when there were 503.

Check Out Our Fentanyl Crisis Section for More

Fentanyl is manufactured in overseas labs, principally in China, according to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, which says the drug is smuggled across the U.S.-Mexico border by cartels.

Fentanyl is 80-100 times more potent than morphine and can be mixed into any number of street narcotics and prescription drugs, without a user knowing what he or she is consuming. Ingestion of only two milligrams can be fatal.

Fentanyl is the leading cause of death for Americans between 18 and 45 years old.

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Jesus Reyes


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