Police: Flakka-like synthetic drug use suspected in Friday incident

BUCKHANNON – Multiple law enforcement officers responded to Dollar General Friday morning when a man suspected of being under the influence of the synthetic drug flakka, or some derivative of it, allegedly brandished a weapon.

According to investigating officer Lt. Doug Loudin with the Buckhannon Police Department, 28-year-old Steven Todd Arnold was arrested Friday morning on one count of brandishing, a misdemeanor, and one count of being a prohibited person in possession of a firearm, also a misdemeanor.

Flakka is a synthetic drug similar in chemical makeup to bath salts; Loudin described it as a “cross between bath salts, methamphetamine and heroin.”

Loudin said the BPD, the Upshur County Sheriff’s Department and the Buckhannon detachment of the West Virginia State Police responded to an altercation at Dollar General on Route 20 allegedly involving a firearm at approximately 8:30 a.m.

According to Loudin, Arnold brandished the weapon during the altercation at Dollar General, but by the time the lieutenant arrived, Arnold had left the scene.

“I caught up with him in the parking lot of the tire place (Buckhannon Discount Tire), and he did give up the weapon without incident,” Loudin said Friday afternoon.

Loudin suspected Arnold was under the influence of flakka or one of its derivatives when he made a comment about being “on poison or gravel,” which is a common street name for the substance.

Arnold was transported to St. Joseph’s Hospital to be medically treated for ingestion of the drug, and multiple law enforcement officials accompanied him there due to the nature of the reaction the drug typically causes.

“People on that tend to go off, and they’re hard to control,” Loudin said.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, flakka and its derivatives are classified as synthetic cathinones and they tend to induce paranoia, hyperstimulation and hallucinations that can lead to aggressive behavior and self-injury.

Loudin said although there have been some instances of people being under the influence of flakka in northern West Virginia, it’s rare in the Upshur County area.

Arnold had not yet been arraigned on the misdemeanor charges as of Friday afternoon.

In unrelated crime news, John A. Absher, 51, of Buckhannon, was arrested Thursday, Dec. 27 by Upshur County Sheriff’s Deputy Tyler Gordon on two counts of driving while license revoked for DUI, third offense, a felony; and prohibited person being in possession of a concealed firearm, also a felony. Absher is being held in the TVRJ on a $20,000 cash or surety bond.

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