Dozens of locals say they’ve been ‘roofied’ at Nevada County bars | TheUnion.com

Dozens of locals say they’ve been ‘roofied’ at Nevada County bars

A local woman went public on social media — and in an interview with The Union — after she suspected she was roofied (had her drink surreptitiously drugged) at a Nevada City bar earlier this month, hoping to raise public awareness of a crime that can be difficult to prove.

She succeeded, creating a Nevada County version of the #MeToo movement, with dozens of locals chiming in with their own experiences.

"It's rampant," said A.Y. (her name, and those of others quoted in this article, have not been used at their request). "I've been getting swamped with calls. It's insane. It's not a Nevada City thing – it's a county thing. I even got a call from Oregon."

Both women and men came forward to recount instances when they suspected they were slipped a spiked drink, in a variety of establishments in Nevada City and Grass Valley.

“If someone believes they were a victim, the sooner they can report it, the more options we have.”

— Grass Valley Police Capt. Steve Johnson

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In many instances, the victims said, they were with friends or a spouse; in none of the instances was the drugging followed by a robbery or assault.

Many of the stories are — perhaps not surprisingly — similar.

"I had one glass of wine and remember nothing from the rest of the evening," said A.R., who was at a Grass Valley bar. "My husband said he's never seen me in that state and almost took me to the hospital. … It's a scary thing, and people need to know."

K.W. also was with her husband at a Grass Valley bar, but it was her husband who got roofied, she said.

"That's what we couldn't figure out," she said. "His drink had been sitting up at the bar, waiting to be brought to our table, so it had to be done by somebody sitting at the bar or walking past."

One woman ruefully said, "We left our drinks in the cubby by the pool table so my friend could go smoke. We should have known better."

Another suspected the bartender after a couple of margaritas at a Grass Valley restaurant.

"As soon as I went outside, my legs started to feel like rubber," T.T. said, adding that she blacked out when she got home. "I don't remember anything else."

Like many others who discussed their experiences, she did not suspect she had been drugged until much later.

"At the time … you don't think about going to the ER," T.T. said. "You're just thinking these drinks are affecting me more than (usual). It's not until the next day that you think something's not right."

Several men came forward as well.

A.M. suspects he was roofied after drinking at two separate Grass Valley establishments.

"I passed out, fell out of a bar stool and cracked my head open," he said. "I woke up in Wayne Brown facility with a drunk in public charge."

A.M. said after his experience, he heard multiple similar tales.

"This is obviously an important issue and something that needs a lot of attention," he said. "It seems to me like there are people doing it for their own purpose, maybe just for entertainment and some of them maybe to endanger others' lives and take advantage of women. … I hear many of these stories and they are definitely getting out of hand."

J.B. was at a Nevada City bar when he began feeling weird halfway through his third beer.

After he handed it to a friend, he said, he was "completely gone."

"That's the last thing I remember," he said. "I woke up in jail with no idea how I got there."

J.B. called the experience terrifying, and added that his friend — who drank the rest of that beer — also blacked out and was arrested. No toxicology report was done on either man, who both were arrested on suspicion of being under the influence of controlled substances, he said.

J.B. reported his suspicions to the Nevada County Sheriff's deputy who arrested him, but was told to call Nevada City because it was their jurisdiction. He said he called the Nevada City Police Department twice but never received a call back.

"It seems that they don't want to deal with the issue at hand or just don't care," he said.

Drugging cases difficult to investigate

Local law enforcement, however, said these are allegations they would take seriously — but they often aren't being reported.

Nevada City Police Sgt. Chad Ellis estimated his department had received two or three such reports in the last year.

"We certainly need to know about it, if this is a major issue and it's not being brought to law enforcement," he said. "We definitely take it seriously."

Similarly, Grass Valley Police Capt. Steve Johnson said his department has only received a handful of reports of people being roofied in the last few years. He acknowledged those numbers might not be an accurate depiction of what's happening in local bars, adding, "It might be a bigger problem than what is being reported."

Johnson said reports of having been roofied are difficult cases to investigate.

"Often you have a diminished capacity to remember correctly, because you are intoxicated by alcohol or drugged in a fashion you weren't aware of, so the information … is spotty," he said. "So you have that going against you. And often there is a time gap, because of the confusion involved or shame. People are reluctant to come forward immediately."

And that time lapse can make it hard for law enforcement to track down witnesses.

"If (it happened) at a bar, often there's pretty good video surveillance," Johnson said. "If it hasn't been too long, that can be a big piece of the investigation, who was in proximity to the drink."

According to Johnson, often younger victims wait to report incidents until after they've talked to friends or have gotten to a place where they feel they can share what might have happened.

"It can be hard to confirm," he said. "The worst kind of case is a he said, she said — but that's where you (can) end up if a long time has elapsed. If someone believes they were a victim, the sooner they can report it, the more options we have. We have a much better chance of being able to get somewhere (with the investigation)."

Johnson encouraged anyone who suspects they have been roofied to report it immediately so they can be tested to detect any drug that might have been slipped to them.

"Some dissipate rather quickly, within 24 hours," he said. "Others can be detected for a longer period of time — it depends on the drug."

As locals who have gone to Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital discovered, however, that facility does not screen for some of the roofie drugs.

"I had something put in my drink in Grass Valley," said one victim. "I went to the ER and filed a police report. Because Sierra Nevada does not test for ketamine or any of the other common date rape drugs in their standard pee test, I was told that I had acute alcohol poisoning and they sent me home. Unless our hospitals start testing for accurate drug panels, I doubt we will ever know the extent of it."

And the hospital does not have the ability to maintain the required chain of custody necessary for taking blood samples for a potential criminal case, a hospital spokeswoman said.

Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital was not able to say how often such reports are made, as staff doesn't track them.

But, said external communications director William Hodges, "It's not uncommon for a patient to present (to the emergency room) with an altered status and claim others are responsible for their condition."

The police department can facilitate blood being drawn and would send it out to a forensic lab, to preserve the chain of custody, Johnson said.

A victim could also choose to go to a private physician for labwork, Johnson said, adding, "we would prefer to be in the loop, if someone is preying on people and victimizing them."

Contact reporter Liz Kellar at 530-477-4236 or by email at lkellar@theunion.com.

How to protect yourself

Some of the more common “roofie” drugs are rohypnol, clonazepam (Klonopin), alprazolam (Xanax), GHB and ketamine. Some of the pills make clear liquids turn bright blue and make dark liquids turn cloudy, but this color change might be hard to see in a dark drink, or in a dark room. GHB might give your drink a slightly salty taste.

Don’t accept drinks from other people.

Keep your drink with you at all times, even when you go to the bathroom.

Don’t drink anything that tastes or smells strange.

Have a nondrinking friend with you to make sure nothing happens..

If you feel drunk and haven’t drunk any alcohol — or, if you feel like the effects of drinking alcohol are stronger than usual — get help right away.

Source: MedicineNet,com

For more on this:

Nevada City Police finds no evidence in roofie case