DUBLIN, Calif. - James Covington's family is in mourning. On Thursday, they paid a visit to Fallon Middle School in Dublin, where the custodian died after he and his fiancee, also a custodian, were found unconscious in the campus library.
"He looked out for all of us. He was like our rock," said his mother Tamara Covington-White.
Authorities initially wondered if the custodians had accidentally mixed chemicals, like bleach, while cleaning. But police said there were no signs of that. Instead, officers said they found ground-up pills in a bag at the scene.
"Preliminary tests of the narcotics that were located at the school, preliminarily, is for fentanyl," said Dublin police Captain Nate Schmidt. "Depending on the potency, it can be deadly, very quickly."
Covington-White angrily rejected assertions that narcotics were involved in the death.
"My son was no drug user—ever. Marijuana? OK. But that's not illegal," she said.
She said she's angry that officers didn't find the couple earlier after she called at 2 a.m. Wednesday, worried that they hadn't returned home.
"I knew something wasn't right with my baby," she said.
Dublin police went to the school shortly after getting the family's call.
"We didn't see any indication that there was anybody on campus at that point," Schmidt said.
But the family called again at 7 a.m. This time, officers found their car parked behind the school. They pinged Covington's cell phone and it showed it was in the library.
"We saw two subjects that were unconscious in the library, and as our officers entered, they smelled some type of a chemical smell as they came in," Schmidt said.
Asked if officers had missed an opportunity to find the couple earlier, Schmidt said, "Based on where the vehicle was parked, officers were unable to gain access to a location they could see the vehicle. Not believing there was anyone on scene at the school, there were no exigent circumstances at the time to request an emergency ping of the missing subjects' phones."
Schmidt continued, "As the investigation progressed and we received the second call, information was provided that the janitors typically park to the rear of the school and close the gate behind them after they enter."
In a statement, interim Dublin Unified Superintendent Daniel Moirao expressed the district's sympathy.
"No matter how strong the Fallon Mustang family is, losing a family member at any time is tragic, but during this time of year, it is devastating," Moirao said.
Covington and his fiancee have two children together.
"Now they have no dad," Covington-White said. "And you can't, nobody can help them with that, I can't. All I can do is be there for them, and that's what we're going to do."