This article was published in The Appalachian.
The Boone Police Department is working with Char Restaurant and Bar after allegations of suspicious activity were reported by patrons last month.
Senior graphic design major Rachel Johnson and senior criminal justice major Kaylynn Prough believe they may have been exposed to Rohypnol, Gamma-Hydroxybutyric (GHB) or a high-proof grain alcohol Friday, Sept. 16 at Char.
Johnson and Prough said they went to Char around 11 p.m. after consuming about four alcoholic beverages each.Prough and Johnson each purchased a shot of Southern Comfort and lime sometime after arriving.
Each said she experienced unusual symptoms almost immediately after taking the shot – blacking out and becoming incoherent much faster than one typically would from alcohol consumption.
A third friend, who accompanied Prough and Johnson, drank a bottled beer instead of a shot and did not experience unusual symptoms.
“As soon as I took the shot and it was all kind of starting to gray out for me, is when I blacked out,” Johnson said. “And [our friend] didn’t take the shot and she had her Bud Light and she didn’t black out.”
Johnson woke up later at home, after vomiting and “crying uncontrollably” throughout the night. She checked her phone and saw a text message from Prough, which asked why she was in the hospital.
Prough said she woke up at Watauga Medical Center with respiratory tubes, an IV in each arm and a bracelet reading “Jane Doe.” She had been admitted to the hospital without identification.
“It was terrifying,” Prough said. “I mean, and the last thing I remembered was dancing at Char.”
Boone Police said that although there are no cases in which a victim has been tested for Rohypnol or GHB, they are taking the threat of a predator seriously.
“We’re certainly examining the possibility that it could be happening, but at this point we don’t have any confirmed cases, and in the cases we do have there has been a lot of drinking involved,” Sergeant Matt Stevens said.
Char is working with the police department to tighten security and keep bar staff and patrons aware of potential dangers.
“They had a couple reports where some people made some claims,” said Colton Lentz, Char General Manager. “They were clear that nobody had tested positive, but they wanted to kind of get ahead of this thing.”
Lentz said he met with Praetorians Boone, the company contracted for security, to increase awareness among its staff.
“It could be nothing, it could be something, but we all felt like it would be a good idea to kind of be on guard,” Lentz said. “It’s better to be safe than sorry.”
Prough and Johnson said they continued to experience negative side effects throughout the week following the incident. Prough forgot two tests – something she said is entirely out of character – and Johnson continually felt drained and out of energy.
Prough said the worst part of the situation is imagining the misconceptions her family would have had if something worse had happened.
“My parents would have thought that I was that stupid college student that died of alcohol poisoning,” she said. “Everything I’ve worked for my entire life, everything I’ve built until this point would have been gone and I would have been just another number.”
Prough said she encourages anyone in a similar situation to speak up.
“Don’t sit at home and say there’s nothing the police can do,” she said. “Yes, it’s extremely hard to investigate, but the more cases they have, the more the legitimate this investigation is.”