'Free Heroin w/ Speedy Rewards' Sign Sparks Anger

By Keri Blakinger 10/19/17

The entire incident was caught on store surveillance video. 

'Free Heroin w/ Speedy Rewards' sign outside of an Ohio gas station
Photo via Twitter

An eye-popping sign at an Ohio gas station has sparked anger after a prankster apparently turned it into a free drug advertisement seemingly mocking the region’s growing heroin epidemic. 

For about 15 minutes, a Dayton Speedway’s sign read: “FREE HEROIN W/ SPEEDY REWARDS.” 

The company was quick to explain that the inappropriate message wasn’t the work of employees; it was a trouble-making customer visiting the Smithville Road and Huffman Avenue location. 

As soon as a passing customer notified the store of the signage switcheroo, employees took it down. 

“It was found on Saturday, Oct. 14, and was immediately removed,” Speedway spokeswoman Stefanie Griffith told the Dayton Daily News. “We apologize to those who may have seen this sign and are currently investigating how this occurred.”

She did not rule out the possibility of pursuing charges, once the culprits are identified. 

The sign originally read: “3¢ off per gal w/Speedy Rewards $1 off next 2pk newport purch.” The pranksters tossed a few extra letters and used the "1" for an "i" to make their nefarious note. 

The entire incident was caught on store surveillance video, but Griffith said it’s against store policy to release it. But a sharp-eyed passerby snapped a picture of the altered sign and posted it online, drawing media attention and local ire. 

“This is friggin stupid,” one woman wrote on Facebook. “Who would do something like this.” 

Another poster took aim at media coverage of the kerfuffle, sarcastically calling it “some crack news reporting, Mr. Obvious.” 

But others found the signage fumble funny, posting laughing emojis and snark. “People will be getting mugged for their Speedy rewards card,” one commenter wrote. 

The western Ohio city of 140,000 has been particularly hard-hit by the heroin crisis. "We're on a pace to have 800 people die this year due to overdose in our county," Sheriff Phil Plummer told NBC News in June. "Per capita, we're Number 1 in the nation in overdose deaths." 

Local coroner Kent Harshbarger estimated that at least 60% of the bodies he handles are overdose victims.

"This is no different than some kind of mass-casualty event in any other form. It's just a medical event," he said. "It needs to be recognized that way to bring some federal assets to help us."

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Keri Blakinger is a former drug user and current reporter living in Texas. She covers breaking news for the Houston Chronicle and previously worked for the New York Daily News and the Ithaca Times. She has written about drugs and criminal justice for the Washington Post, Salon, Quartz and more. She loves dogs and is not impressed by rodeo food. Find Keri on LinkedIn and Twitter.