Was Flakka Responsible For Florida Teen's Gruesome Face-Eating Attack?

By McCarton Ackerman 08/18/16

The first officer to arrive on the murder scene found Austin Harrouff “on top of our victim, clutching him in a bear hug and biting him in the face." 

Was Flakka Responsible For Florida Teen's Gruesome Face-Eating Attack?
Austin Harrouff PhotoYouTube

A Florida State University student killed two people and may possibly die himself after committing a gruesome attack while he was allegedly high on flakka.

People magazine reported that Austin Harrouff, 19, was found on Monday trying to bite off the face of 59-year-old John Joseph Stevens III. The act of cannibalism came after he fatally stabbed both Stevens and his wife, 53-year-old Michelle Karen Mishcon.

Martin County Sheriff William Snyder told the magazine that the double murder was a “random” and “unprovoked” attack. The first officer to arrive at the couple’s home found Harrouff “on top of our victim, clutching him in a bear hug and biting him in the face." After a taser and two officers at full strength couldn’t pry Harrouff off of Stevens, a third deputy and a police dog were sent to the home and the group managed to get the teenager away from Stevens after several more minutes of struggling.

Harrouff has been charged with two counts of murder, one count of aggravated battery and was charged with home invasion, but he may not survive to see a day in court. He was taken to a hospital after the incident and Snyder said the teenager is “heavily sedated…last night he was intubated, so he was getting assistance to breathe.” It’s unclear if his potentially fatal injuries are the result of a drug overdose or “sustained trauma” from officers.

Snyder says it’s still not certain whether drugs played a role in the attack, but Harrouff exhibited several symptoms common in people under the influence of flakka. Cocaine, marijuana and methamphetamine have been ruled out as possible substances that he was under the influence of.

The tragic case bears a strong resemblance to the infamous 2012 case of fellow Floridian Rudy Eugene, who attacked Ronald Poppo under a bridge and chewed on his face before being fatally shot by police. It was widely reported that Eugene was under the influence of bath salts, but toxicology reports only confirmed marijuana in his system. Poppo survived the attack, but was left blind and permanently disfigured.

Flakka outpaced cocaine in terms of popularity in south Florida as recently as June 2015, but its popularity has dropped drastically since then. CNN reported that 63 flakka users died in south Florida between September 2014 and December 2015, but there were no reported flakka deaths in the area during the first four months of 2016.

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McCarton Ackerman is a freelance writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon. He has been a contributor for The Fix since October 2011, writing on a wide range of topics ranging from medical marijuana in Colorado to the world's sexiest drug smugglers. Follow him on Linkedin and Twitter.