Passers-by restrain Howland man allegedly having ‘bath salts’ fit

Posted June 28, 2011, at 5:20 p.m.
Last modified June 29, 2011, at 11:36 a.m.

LINCOLN, Maine — Four passers-by put themselves at considerable risk when they restrained a Howland man who broke into a Lake Street home early Tuesday while hallucinating from a designer drug known as “bath salts,” police said.

And a bath salts-related case this past weekend in Bangor led to the arrest of a local man whose unusual behavior caught the attention of a police officer.

Witnesses reported that Dylan Smith, 20, thought that “people were chasing him and were going to kill him with an ax” when he wandered down Main Street in Lincoln trying to break into businesses and screaming at about 2:30 a.m., Police Chief William Lawrence said.

Smith was “out of control,” Lawrence said Tuesday.

But four young men saw Smith in his crisis. The group trailed Smith onto Lake Street and tackled and held him down after he kicked in the door to a Lake Street residence and resident Corey Evans called 911, Lawrence said.

Police Officer David Peters arrived several minutes later, establishing a rapport with Smith and coaxing him into a police cruiser, where he calmed down, Lawrence said. Smith was taken into protective custody, Lawrence said.

“It is nice that they called and gave assistance. God knows what would have happened if they didn’t,” Lawrence said of the passers-by, who he believed were strangers to Smith. “He [Smith] was hallucinating so badly that he really felt in his mind that he was being chased by someone with an ax.”

The incident, Lawrence said, was Lincoln’s first involving “bath salts,” which usually contain mephedrone or Methylenedioxypyrovalerone, also known as MDPV. Those are man-made chemicals that block neurotransmitters in the brain and can stop it from making dopamine, which controls the brain’s reward and pleasure centers, and promote hallucinations.

The drugs, which the Maine Legislature is trying to make illegal, recently have emerged as a problem in the Bangor area and statewide, with more than 29 overdoses reported to Maine hospitals this month. Bath salts also goes by the name “monkey dust” and Kryptonite.

Lawrence said Smith was in protective custody at Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor and will be charged with criminal mischief, criminal trespass and violation of the conditions of his release when he recovers and is discharged from the hospital. Smith already has been issued summonses for those charges, Lawrence said.

A hospital spokeswoman declined to comment on Smith’s condition Tuesday.

Lawrence hoped he wouldn’t be seeing much more of “bath salts,” but feared he might.

“It puts everyone at risk,” he said of the drug.

Bangor police Lt. Tom Reagan, a drug recognition expert, said this week that Bangor appears to be at the epicenter of the bath salts problem in Maine. His colleagues in other major cities, including Portland and Lewiston, are seeing few cases.

Jason Andrew Smith, 32, was at a State Street gas station and convenience store on Saturday when a police officer saw him waving his arms, rocking back and forth and looking around himself, Bangor police Lt. Jeff Millard said, citing a police report.

“He appeared to be afraid,” Millard said. The man said he needed to speak with an officer because he believed he was being followed. He said he had seen cars in the station’s parking lot before.

Given the man’s behavior, the officer asked if he had been using bath salts. The man initially denied it but eventually admitted he had been injecting them, Millard said.

Smith reportedly drove to the store with three minor children, two of whom were his daughters, and a boy who was staying with them, Millard said.

The officer asked the oldest girl, who was in her early teens, if her father had been acting strangely and she said he had and that she was scared, according to the report. The children were taken to the police station. It was not clear where they went afterward.

Smith, who was out on bail for a domestic violence arrest, was charged with violating his bail conditions and child endangerment. He then was taken to Penobscot County Jail.

Millard said Tuesday that the “bath salts” problem in Bangor continues to escalate.

“We’re now seeing four or five incidents a day,” he said.

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