Crime & Courts

CMPD apologizes over what officer told a woman who wanted to report being drugged

The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department is investigating one of its officers over an allegation that he told a woman she could not report being drugged unless she returned to the scene of the incident and called 911.

“Needless to say, this isn't exactly the response this woman — a victim — was hoping for, and it's not the response this victim, this woman, should have gotten,” said Rob Tufano, public affairs director for CMPD, at a press conference Friday. “Not any way, shape or form the way that we expect our folks to address a victim."

Leah McGuirk, 31, wrote in a public Facebook post on May 21 that she believed she had been drugged at Rooftop 210, a bar in uptown’s EpiCentre, on May 12. She wrote that she suffered seizure-like symptoms, blurred vision and had trouble standing up after consuming two-thirds of one drink. She wrote that she thought she had been "roofied," a term for having a drug slipped into a drink, typically by someone with intent to sexually assault their victim. The post was shared more than 1,900 times on Facebook.

Then, four days later, McGuirk posted that when she tried to report what happened to CMPD, she was told she couldn't unless she returned to Rooftop 210 and called 911. She also posted a video on Facebook and YouTube.

“There are some situations where we may ask a citizen to go back to the scene of the crime if there was a vehicle accident or you need to show what happened and we need to collect evidence somewhere,” CMPD Lt. Melanie Peacock said. “But a report with a nature such as this, we would never advocate for a victim to have to go back and call somebody else.”

According to Peacock, the Sexual Assault Unit found out about the incident through social media and asked McGuirk to file a report about being drugged and also file a complaint against the officer.

The Sexual Assault Unit and the Alcoholic Beverage Control Unit are working together on the investigation, although Peacock stressed that no sexual assault occurred in McGuirk’s case.

According to CMPD, there have been one reported rape and three reported sex offenses at the EpiCentre, a collection of bars, restaurants and shops at 210 E. Trade St., in 2018. Two of these reports say that the victim may have been drugged, according to CMPD. Four other reports or calls have been filed in 2018 related to being drugged at the EpiCentre.

Peacock said that she had “no reason” to think that the reports of being drugged were connected.

Of the more than 220 cases of forcible fondling, rape and sexual assaults reported this year, nine happened in uptown, CMPD data show. There were five fondlings and four rapes.

A person who identified themself as an employee of Rooftop 210 told the Observer on Friday no one was available to answer questions about the incident.

McGuirk said that it's good CMPD acknowledged that the way she was treated was inappropriate, but that the problem shouldn’t have existed in the first place.

"It took a YouTube video for them to contact me, and that is symptomatic of a larger problem,” she said.

She also said that there needs to be a legal term for people who are drugged but are not sexually assaulted, which is what she says happened to her.

McGuirk did file a police report Wednesday, but the report doesn't mention drugs. The narrative section of the report reads: “On May 12, 2018 the listed victim stated that she feels that her level of intoxication exceeded her consumption.”

The NC Offense Category is listed as “Miscellaneous criminal/Other Unlisted Criminal Offense.”

“The relevant statute for drug-facilitated sexual assault is really contamination of food or drink to render a victim incapacitated,” Peacock said. “It's not something we use very often, simply because the threshold of meeting those elements is very high."

Peacock says CMPD is working on a way to classify and more easily track incidents in which a person claims to be drugged.

Peacock encouraged residents to report cases in which they thought they had been drugged as soon as possible.

Rachel Jones: 704-358-5617; @notracheljones