BANGOR, Maine — The confused local man found waist-deep in the Penobscot River early Tuesday admitted to police that the “bath salts” he injected earlier had negatively affected his ability to drive.
Christopher M. Buzzell, 27, of Bangor made his first appearance Wednesday at the Penobscot Judicial Center.
Superior Court Justice William Anderson set bail at $500 cash. Conditions include no possession or use of alcohol or drugs. In addition, Buzzell must abide by a 9 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew.
Buzzell’s next court appearance was set for Aug. 9.
He remained at the Penobscot County Jail on Wednesday evening unable to make bail.
Buzzell is charged with eluding an officer, two counts of criminal operating under the influence of intoxicants and driving to endanger.
He 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, according to police. One form of bath salts sold in the Queen City is called “monkey dust,” but it is sold under dozens of 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 blinking red 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,” Bangor police Sgt. Paul Edwards said. “Officer Pelkey reported that the suspect did finally come to the officers.”
At the end of his interview with Pelkey, according to his report, the officer asked Buzzell, “‘Do you feel as though it [bath salts] negatively affected your ability to drive[?]’ Buzzell responded, ‘Oh, of course.’”
If convicted of the felony eluding offense, the most serious of the four charges against him, Buzzell faces up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $5,000.
BDN writer Nok-Noi Ricker contributed to this report.