A 21-year-old man has been arrested in connection with the group of teenagers and young adults that overdosed on a synthetic drug early Thursday at a house party in Blaine.
Timothy Richard Lamere of Blaine is being held on suspicion of murder in the third degree. Police said he purchased and provided the drug 2 C-E to the group, which killed 19-year-old Trevor Robinson, and sent 10 others to the hospital with overdose symptoms.
Lamere hasn't been charged, and police said charges would be expected to filed Monday in Anoka County.
Robinson was removed from life support Thursday afternoon at Unity Hospital in Fridley. The victims took 2C-E, a synthetic substance that can legally be bought via the Internet, authorities said. While it is fairly common in other parts of the country, it has been slow to reach Minnesota, said Cmdr. Paul Sommer of the Anoka County Sheriff's Office.
Only one overdose victim remains hospitalized.
Synthetic drugs are a continuing problem nationwide and have been a high-profile target of legislators and health officials. On Thursday, Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, proposed a ban on chemicals used in synthetic drugs commonly known as Spice and K2. In Minnesota, the state House last month overwhelmingly approved a bill to ban synthetic marijuana. It awaits a vote in the Senate. At the federal level, the Drug Enforcement Administration recently put a one-year ban on five chemicals used to make synthetic marijuana.
Blaine police went to a house in the 9500 block of NE. Monroe Street about 1 a.m. Thursday on a 911 call that Robinson was having medical difficulties after he ingested a substance. They found that "multiple teens and young adults" had ingested a substance and that many were in medical distress, Sommer said. Some victims had fled the party and were suffering the effects of the suspected overdose elsewhere, he said.
Police talked to several people at the house and eventually tracked down all 11 who apparently overdosed. They ranged in age from 16 to 21; at least two were 16, Sommer said. Some were found in the area, at their homes or hospitals, he said. The house wasn't considered a problem property with police, said Blaine Police Capt. Kerry Fenner.
Sommer said authorities don't believe there were parents home at the time.
All victims were taken to the hospital by ambulance. It was obvious those interviewed by police were under the influence of the drug, Fenner said.
"Some of them said they had used the drug in drinks and some chopped it into lines and snorted it," Sommer said. "I think they were very unfamiliar how much could make them overdose."
Sommer said 2C-E is a chemical compound that is not classified as a controlled substance. Websites market it as a designer drug or "research chemical," but it has no medicinal or industrial purpose, Sommer said.
"Just because the drug is considered legal and you can buy it on the Internet doesn't mean it's safe," he said. "This is a major incident we find alarming and frustrating."
It's unclear how much the 19-year-old who died had taken.
Authorities initially suspected the substance was 2C-I, which is a "cousin drug" to an illegal compound called 2C-B and can be considered illegal if intended for consumption. The state Bureau of Criminal Apprehension later identified the substance as 2C-E, which also is similar to 2C-I.
Synthetics are a trend "that's gone on for 10 or 15 years," said Carol Falkowski, drug abuse strategy officer with the Minnesota Department of Human Services. "But they never really disappeared. It only reaches the public in the wake of tragic death. Products can be brought to market that are of great harm to people, and profit can be made."
Robinson's Facebook page said he was a graduate of Blaine High School and was attending Anoka-Ramsey Community College in Coon Rapids. Hockert, 19, said he had been best friends with Robinson since third grade. Hockert started receiving text messages and phone calls Thursday morning that his friend was in the hospital, but he didn't think it was anything serious.
Hockert said he was startled to learn Robinson's death was drug-related, although he said he had some minor brushes with drinking and drugs. Robinson has a son about 6 months old, Hockert said.
Robinson's mother, two brothers, other relatives and many friends gathered at Unity Hospital before Robinson died. Hockert was also there but said it was too painful to actually go into his best friend's room.
"It was just too traumatic," he said.
At his news conference Thursday, Sommer said he read an article earlier in the day that said nobody had died from an overdose of 2C-E.
Then he paused and said, "Today, that's no longer the case."
Staff writers Mary Lynn Smith and Paul Levy and the Associated Press contributed to this report. David Chanen • 612-673-4465