ToquiNotes: Chief John Walker Confirms Deadly New Synthetic Drug has Arrived in Harrison County

By Jeff Toquinto on October 21, 2017 from ToquiNotes via Connect-Bridgeport.com

It was back in July of 2016, when William Ihlenfeld was still the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of West Virginia, that the word Flakka was used in this very blog. The man-made drug was making an appearance in the furthest points south, primarily in Florida.
 
Ihlenfeld was offering a warning that slowly, but surely, Flakka was going to do what most drugs do. Eventually, the drug would begin a cross country march.
 
So what is Flakka?
 
Flakka is a synthetic or designer drug and can be combined with other drugs such as marijuana. Not surprisingly, chemicals in Flakka are similar to those in bath salts.
 
The side effects aren’t exactly what you want to see. They are listed as bizarre and uncontrollable behavior and one report said it can create “murderous rage.”
 
While side effects are common with drugs, one that isn’t often thrown about is the term “murderous rage.” Think about that for a second and just how serious of a situation this could be when this drug arrives.
 
Here's the thing: When I called Bridgeport Police Chief John Walker on Wednesday of this week to talk about the sudden bump in the use of bath salts in the area, he asked me if I was aware of Flakka. 
 
I told him I was and then rehashed what I had discussed with Ihlenfeld and wrote about nearly a year and a half ago. Much like Ihlenfeld and his assessment, Walker initially had some good news.
 
“It hasn’t really hit here yet, but there are concerns that it may show up at any time,” said Walker. “It’s known as gravel and it’s definitely more dangerous than cocaine.”
 
Here's the next  thing and it's bad news. Since that phone call this week, the status has changed. Walker got in touch with me late Friday night to let me know that he had been informed of two report of Flakka in the area.
 
"You can now report that Flakka is in our county," said Walker.
 
This isn't good news.As mentioned above, it's bad news - really bad.
 
Before Friday's new information, Walker knew all too well what this could mean in the ongoing battle and he didn't need to necessarily read from a drug manual to understand how Flakka's arrival changes the dynamic. As the chairman of the Harrison County Violent Crimes and Drug Task Force he knows all too well about drugs – both man-made and natural – that are causing havoc nationwide.
 
“Flakka causes a high similar to cocaine, but it’s synthetic like bath salts and has some of the same reactions as bath salts. Some of the reactions are worse,” said Walker. “The people using Flakka seem, for lack of better terminology, to lose control of their body and become paranoid. You couple that with the addition of having the feeling of super human strength and you have an extremely dangerous situation.”
 
In 2016, Flakka was confined primarily to Florida. Walker said it’s been moving up along the east coast and into multiple southern states. You can now count West Virginia as where the drug has arrived.
 
Again, here's what Walker said Wednesday - prior to Flakka making an unwelcome and earlier than anticipated appearance.
 
“We’re seeing it work its way up towards West Virginia. With drug trends, we’re usually a couple of years behind,” said Walker before Friday night. “When it hits, it hits hard. The scary thing is this drugs is like some of the others and it turns its users into zombies.
 
“I’m not being pessimistic, just more of a realist when I say that I do think it’s inevitable you’ll read about it being here,” said Walker. “Any drug trend we see always seems to end up here.”
 
He was right. And he only missed about it being ready about being here by a couple of days.
 
Is this the next bath salts trend? That's a matter for the future, but bath salts were a trend that ended up here and it was one, as Walker mentioned above, turned people into zombies with paranoid behavior. Reports of people eating raw meat in stores and an incident in Clarksburg where a man with a machete had a standoff with police on Milford Street are just a few incidents. Much of that was curtailed after April of 2012 when multiple agencies raided the Hot Stuff and Cool Things business at the Rosebud Plaza in Clarksburg in what Ihlenfeld called at the time the largest bath salts drug bust in United States history.
 
The good news is that bath salts have never reached the problem levels that it was at in 2012 prior to that raid. The bad news is that the synthetic drug is making a mini-comeback.
 
“Bath salts are still here in the area. We don’t have the problem like we did prior to the raid, but we do have a problem with it,” said Walker. “Generally, it’s being obtained through the mail.”
 
By mail, it’s usually coming from overseas. It’s shipped in ways that’s not generally detected and the problem addicts had of no longer getting it from their local store or dealer is eliminated by countries where manufacturing of these drugs aren’t an issue or the authorities turn a blind eye.
 
Even if bath salts don’t make a huge comeback, drugs usually go in trends. Walker said, right now, heroin use is down. That good news is tempered by the fact he said law enforcement is seeing an increase in the use of meth.
 
“Meth makes people violent and you see more crime; people carrying weapons for the purpose of crime. It’s sad because if you’re in this battle, and even many who are just observers to what’s going on, can see drugs deteriorating society,” Walker said. “I think we’re also at a point where we’re again seeing an increase in violent crimes in West Virginia.”
 
Walker said crimes – both violent and non-violent – almost always have a drug connection. While he said that was often the case in the past, he said the numbers of crimes are much higher as are the ones that are drug related.
 
“Statistically, I’m guessing probably 85 to 90 percent of our crimes today are related to drugs. The reason is the same as the past and that’s to support the addiction and when you have more addiction you have more crimes,” Walker said. “You hope to see an end to this, but it’s hard sometimes to think that it’s coming any time soon if at all.”
 
Walker said for those who think things have calmed down in recent months due to fewer press conferences or breaking news regarding arrests or major drug busts that they shouldn’t take that as a sign that things are slowing down. He said it often means the opposite.
 
“When you’re not hearing things, that’s when officers, and our Task Force, is out doing work. It’s still out there. It’s everywhere, including here in Bridgeport,” said Walker. “It’s permeated every level of society.”
 
Walker ended our Wednesday conversation that law enforcement was already looking over their shoulder for the arrival of Flakka. Sadly, they no longer have to look. 
 
It's here. The problem with drugs just took another turn. And like it usually does, it's a turn for the worse.
 
Editor's Note: Top photo shows Chief John Walker reviewing photos of Flakka at work on Wednesday, while second photo shows former U.S. Attorney William Ihlenfeld, with Walker, who warned more than a year ago the drug would be working its way north. Bottom photo shows the 2012 raid on Hot Stuff Cool Things at the Rosebud Plaza in Clarksburg.


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