Victims share stories of drinks drugged at local bar
Disturbing accounts of hazy nights and spiked drinks have emerged on social media in recent weeks, with patrons pointing to a Newberg business as the common location of events described. Women and men detailed instances of losing control of their faculties after one or two drinks, while others described witnessing people slip drugs into drinks.
The owner of the bar, First Street Pub on First Street, is pushing back against these claims and local police say they haven't received reports of the crimes described in the past 90 days. Yet over a dozen people shared their stories – some stretching back as far as six years and others as recent as last month – in the comments of various posts in the Newberg-Dundee Citizens Info Group as well as private Facebook messages.
The original post warns of an incident on Dec. 16 where a woman claims she had her drink drugged at the pub. Comments from current and former local residents illustrate a dubious trend of this happening at the business based on their accounts, and attempts by The Graphic to solicit detailed stories yielded more of the same.
Emma Prendergast was among those who reached out with a story. The 21-year-old said she went to First Street with some friends on April 26 and ordered a whiskey and Coke.
"Very quickly I began to get a 'euphoric' feeling in my body," Prendergast said. "My head felt as if it was not attached to my body. I remember looking at my hands and thinking to myself, why can't I feel or control my hands? I immediately went to my boyfriend, who was at the bar with us, and told him I didn't feel good and wanted to go home."
Prendergast said she, her boyfriend and the rest of their group began to return to their residence on Second Street when her symptoms worsened.
She said her legs and body were shaking, her depth perception was off and it took more than one person just to get her into the house.
Prendergast's skin was cold to the touch, she said, and she began to repeatedly black out and vomit throughout the remainder of the night. It took her days to fully recover.
All this happened after just one drink, she said.
"I did not go to the emergency room and I did not file a police report," Prendergast said. "I deeply regret these decisions."
A woman who identifies herself on Facebook as Karina Becky Jo said she was at First Street "a few months back" when she witnessed a shocking act. Because First Street doesn't allow patrons to bring their drinks outside, she and her friends left their drinks inside the bar and went outside to smoke.
"I blatantly saw a man go in, look around, drop something in my drink and go back outside with a different crowd who was smoking," she said. "He was a mid-20s or early 30s white man with white buzzed hair. At the time I was flabbergasted and left that drink where it was and got another. I should have said something to the guy or the bartender, but I didn't. Luckily, I saw and didn't drink it."
Other women say they've felt similar to how Prendergast did after just one or two drinks, pointing to symptoms often associated with Rohypnol – a tranquilizer often used as a date-rape drug and commonly known as a "roofie."
There is no police record of events like this in the past 90 days and many of the victims say they didn't go to police, so the fear of coming forward and the stigma around doing so has to be factored in here, according to messages from some of the women.
"The cost of healthcare or an ambulance ride could be a reason why so many of these incidents go unreported as well," Prendergast said. "We also didn't have anyone sober enough to drive me to the hospital that night, so I was basically left to deal with it with the help of my friends."
Brian Hagen, public information officer for the Newberg-Dundee Police Department, emphasized that the department takes claims like this very seriously and encouraged people to come forward and file a police report if they believe their drink was drugged.
"We are aware that this type of evil occurs, so please make a police report if you have information about it," Hagen said. "Introducing a drug into the body of anyone without their knowledge is a very serious felony in Oregon and we would obviously investigate any such report. In the meantime, be cautious, look out for one-another, and if you see something, say something."
Sonja Petrone, owner of First Street Pub, couldn't be reached for comment but did reply to a Facebook post about the incidents and said the safety of her patrons is "of paramount importance," and that she is taking these claims "very seriously."
"When this story was brought to my attention, I immediately contacted the OLCC and the Newberg-Dundee Police," Petrone said. "Neither agency has received a report about the alleged drink tampering incident that started this thread, so this story appears to be without merit. Additionally, I am not aware of any previous incidents in which the police were investigating legitimate claims of drinks being drugged at my establishment.
"However, I think it's important to acknowledge that drink tampering is a real thing and there are steps you should take to protect yourself, whether it's a house party or public establishment."
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