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The Most Dangerous Drug

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Prince George's County Police are using state-of-the-art training scenarios to practice dealing with people high on PCP. (Published Friday, Nov 9, 2012)

    At first, it looks real: a man wielding a knife, yelling at two police officers.

    "Want to take me on? I'll gut you, man.  I'll gut you right here."

    Prince George's County police say this is their new reality.

    "Sir, we're here to help you," one of the officers says back to the man.  “Sir, lay on the ground.  Drop the knife!  Drop the knife!  Taser!  Taser!”

    And then, just as the man lunges with the knife, this state-of-the-art training scenario freezes, offering a glimpse of something these officers all hoped they wouldn’t ever see again.

    “We go through training scenarios all the time in the academy that have to deal with people on PCP,” says Maj. Mark Person, the commander of the department’s Training and Education Division.  "We believe it’s back.  It's back a little different from what it used to be in the early 90s when it was very prevalent.  It seems to be a little stronger now."

    Maj. Person says people used to buy the powder form called angel dust.  Now $70 gets buyers a vial filled with liquid to make what are called "dippers," marijuana and cigarettes dipped into this potent cocktail of ether, embalming fluid and other chemicals.

    "It is probably the most dangerous that we deal with,” Maj. Person says.

    A 911 call from College Park earlier this year is one of the most frightening examples.

    Dispatcher:  Prince George's County 911.

    Mother:  It's my son.  I think he's, um, smoked some PCP and he's, um, swears somebody is after him."

    Andre McKoy’s mother tells the dispatcher he has a gun.

    Mother:  He wants us to leave.  He said get out.

    Dispatcher:  Ma’am, go.  Go!  Take everybody and go outside!  If that is what he wants to do …”

    Mother:  Nobody is in the room.

    Andre McKoy:  Ma, I'm not playing with you, Ma.

    Police say McKoy forced his mother outside.

    Police then shoot and Taser him before he steals a police cruiser, arresting him only after McKoy crashes the car.

    Mother:  Oh my god, that boy is crazy

    McKoy is now awaiting trial and faces more than a dozen charges for first-degree murder, stealing a vehicle and multiple assault charges, including assaulting a police officer.

    The News4 I-Team found half of the department's police-involved shootings this year involved PCP.

    But Maj. Person says officers are trained to first try non-lethal techniques like Tasers, paint pellets and a swarming technique where one officer tries to talk down a suspect while another three to four officers swoop in and tackle the suspect in concert.

    They then wrap the suspect’s neck in a brace while immobilizing him by strapping his arms and legs tightly to his body before carting him to the hospital.

    "PCP patients on a scale from one to 10, they're a 15 coming in the door," says Dr. Michelle Carter, the Clinical Director of Emergency Medicine at Howard University Hospital.

    Dr. Carter says PCP takes a terrible toll on emergency rooms because everybody from security officers to orderlies to doctors get pulled into restraining the patient.

    "They are screaming, hollering,” she explains.  “They're sweating.  Some are dressed, some are taking off their clothes.  Trying to keep the sheets on them.  They're spitting and cussing and calling all kinds of names you probably can't think of on a sober day."

    A News4 I-Team analysis of health department statistics shows there has been an upswing of PCP deaths, hospitalizations and arrests concentrated in Prince George's County and the eastern half of the District.

    "We've definitely seen a surge in PCP patients in the last year,” Dr. Carter says.

    Neither she nor the police are sure why there’s been an increase.  Maj. Person says PCP is cheaper than most drugs and has a longer high.  Dr. Carter also fears a new generation not familiar with PCP might be experimenting and mixing it with other drugs.

    They both hope this year’s bad trip is almost over, but worry the PCP problem may get worse before it gets better.