BANGOR, Maine — Police found a local man standing in the waters of the Penobscot River in a confused state of mind early Tuesday after he reportedly used a new lab-made drug called “bath salts,” got behind the wheel and then attempted to run away.
“Evidence developed during the investigation indicates that the suspect may have ingested bath salts prior to the pursuit,” Bangor police Sgt. Paul Edwards said Tuesday afternoon.
Christopher M. Buzzell, 27, was charged with four crimes, including felony eluding an officer as well as operating under the influence, the sergeant said.
“The influence was the bath salts,” Edwards said. “It’s illegal to operate a motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol or drugs.”
Buzzell is the first person in Bangor to be charged with OUI associated with the man-made stimulant and hallucinogenic drug that began to surface in Bangor back in February. One form of bath salts sold in the Queen City is called “monkey dust,” but it is sold under dozens of different names.
Local police, doctors and emergency responders have reported signs of paranoia, hallucinations, convulsions and psychotic episodes in users of the lab-made crystal powder, and state legislators are working to ban the chemicals used to create the synthetic stimulant and hallucinogenic substance.
Officer Kyle Pelkey attempted to stop Buzzell after seeing his red GMC Jimmy run a red blinking light at the junction of Washington and Oak streets at around 4:22 a.m. Tuesday.
Buzzell reportedly sped off and attempted to lose Pelkey. After making several turns, Buzzell allegedly attempted to make a left turn onto Exchange Street, lost control of his vehicle and crashed it into some bushes.
He got out of the vehicle and took off on foot, running toward Penobscot Plaza.
Lt. Tom Reagan, Officer Kevin Murphy, Pelkey and others heard crashing, splashing and mumbling noises coming from the banks of the Penobscot River, and Pelkey found Buzzell standing in the river. He ordered him to come to shore.
Buzzell “appeared to be at an elevated state of excitement and confusion and was having difficulties maintaining focus on the officers’ commands,” Edwards said. “Officer Pelkey reported that the suspect did finally come to the officers.”
Buzzell first was taken to the emergency room at Eastern Maine Medical Center and later was transported to the Penobscot County Jail.
In addition to the felony eluding an officer and OUI offenses, Buzzell also faces charges of driving to endanger and failure to report an accident.
If convicted of the felony eluding offense, the most serious of the four charges against him, Buzzell could face up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $5,000.