19-year-old Austin Harrouffa, a Florida State University Student, is scheduled to undergo surgery on his hand later Wednesday, the sheriff’s department reports. On Tuesday reports had the teen in critical condition with the sheriff’s department unsure he would survive. It is not clear why he has been hospitalized specifically, but the sheriff’s department reports that he was probably on some kind of drug (they suspect a synthetic drug called Flakka) and that when they tried to subdue him at the scene of the triple-stabbing he was tasered, beaten and attacked by a police dog.
The Sheriff William Snyder said that Harrouffa was exhibiting abnormal levels of strength and that the initial tasering did not seem to phase him, nor did efforts to physically restrain him and pull him away from the dead body. He was on top of one of the male victims (later pronounced dead at the scene) and biting his face.
Police were summoned to the scene by a man who had been stabbed multiple-times while trying to stop Harrouffa from stabbing his next-door neighbors, a man and woman who were both pronounced dead at the scene. John Joseph Stevens III, 59, and his wife Michelle Karen Mishcon, 53, were reportedly sitting together in their garage with the door open (something their neighbor says they do often) when Harrouffa showed up and started stabbing him. The neighbor who was also stabbed is expected to survive.
The sheriff’s department believe Harrouffa showed the usual signs of a flakka overdose. Flakka, which is a synthetic drug, can cause abnormal strength, the desire to remove one’s clothing (Harrouffa was shirtless when police arrived); Harrouffa was also making guttural and growling sounds when being transported by police, which is another side-effect of Flakka. The drug also reportedly causes increased aggression, and a resistance to subduing efforts and immense pain, which is evident in the amount of effort deputies had to exert to subdue Harrouffa, including tasering, beating and a dog bite.
Flakka has been causing deaths and other incidents increasingly in Florida. The drug is cheap and typically available online from Chinese dealers, though it is reportedly becoming more difficult to obtain. “Epidemics” of Flakka-use have been reported in Ohio, Chicago and Houston but the worst problem is in Florida.
The drug reportedly raises the body’s temperature to 104-105 degrees (explaining the need to take off one’s clothing) and creates a surge of adrenaline resulting in superhuman strength and a high pain tolerance. It is apparently easy to overdose on Flakka or take an impure version of it, leading to heart problems, agitation and aggressiveness, psychosis, and paranoia. Last year an 83-year-old woman was beaten by a 26-year-old in a similarly random attack; the 26-year-old was high on Flakka and the woman died months later from her injuries. Another case of overdose involved a man trying to have sex with a tree, pulling the electric probes from an officer’s taser off of his body and then tried to stab the officer with his own badge.
Florida has mounted a fairly unified effort against the drug and the Chinese government has surprisingly cooperated and decreased or halted manufacture of the drug. As a result, incidents like this stabbing are becoming less frequent; but the double-murder is an indication that Flakka has not been totally eradicated from the area.
Law enforcement officials will be trying to track Harrouffa’s movements leading up to the stabbing to try to locate his source for the drug. Harrouffa was in the area visiting family but reportedly stormed out of a restaurant where they were having lunch because the food took too long to arrive.