EXCLUSIVE: BPD Investigates If Foul Play Led To Young Man’s Near Death Dip In Boston Harbor

In the early morning hours of November 28, Boston police officers on random patrol came across a partially clothed 23-year-old man outside 470 Atlantic Avenue. The man was wet and shivering, wearing only a t-shirt, underwear and one sock. He told police he fell into the Boston Harbor. He estimated he was in the water for about 20 minutes. The officers brought the man inside the lobby of the building to warm up. Boston EMS transported the man to Massachusetts General Hospital. On Thursday, Boston Police Detective Sgt. John Boyle confirmed the department is investigating if the man consumed a “spiked” drink before he ended up in the Boston Harbor.

470 Atlantic Avenue

The man’s story is eerily similar to that of a dozen other college-aged men who, over the course of the last decade, were reported missing after a night out in Boston with friends. The bodies of the men were later found in either the Boston Harbor or the Charles River. Their deaths were ultimately ruled accidental or undetermined drownings.

William Hurley

In 2019, Rolling Stone published a report exploring whether the drownings were actually the work of the “Smiley Face Killers.” One of the men who drowned was William Hurley, a 24-year-old Navy veteran. His body was found in the Charles River in 2009. The magazine reported: “Hurley’s death was eventually ruled an undetermined drowning, with the police stating that they found no evidence of foul play. Yet people who were close to Hurley — including [his then girlfriend] — have disputed these claims, pointing to his damaged cellphone as well as injuries indicating blunt-force trauma, and a toxicology report that found high levels of GHB, commonly known as the date-rape drug.”

Just days after officers found the man on Atlantic Avenue, Boston Police issued a Community Alert warning about drinks being drugged at local bars and clubs. Live Boston obtained the police reports that detail several other alarming incidents that prompted the warning.

Boston Police warned of the dangerousness of scentless, colorless and tasteless drugs such as Rohypnol, also known as roofie, being placed in the drinks of unsuspecting victims. Other drugs commonly used in a similar fashion are GHB (gamma-hydroxybutyric acid) or Ketamine.

These drugs and substances can cause disorientation, confusion, temporary paralysis, unconsciousness and a host of other symptoms, leaving the potential victim vulnerable to the intentions of the suspect.

Other Incidents

October 30, 2021

A man and woman told police they arrived at West End Johnnie’s (Portland Street) around 9:30 p.m. The pair said they each had two vodka Red Bull drinks. The woman then ordered two green tea shots at a smaller, satellite bar adjacent to the dance floor. The woman said she was approached by a possible Asian-American man, tall (6’ or greater) with a thicker face. She said he was wearing a “polo-tie” and sunglasses. She said the man asked her about her costume (this incident occurred on Halloween weekend) and they had a conversation that lasted an estimated 45 seconds. The green tea shots she ordered were on the bar next to her hand. She was on the side of the bar closest to the bathrooms. The woman and the man she went to the establishment with reported taking the shots and losing their memories about 10 to 15 minutes later. They said their friends later told them they were stumbling around and very drunk. The woman was making out with an unknown man on the dance floor. The unknown man later friended her on Snapchat. She reported his username to police. Both victims said the next day they felt panicked, but not hungover. They noted their faces were tingling. The victims said they felt anxiety throughout the day and bought urine drug tests at Walgreens. Both urine tests showed the presence of benzodiazepines and opiates in their respective systems. Both victims denied using drugs.

On November 5, 2021, two Boston police officers assigned to the Licensed Premise Unit conducted a licensed premise inspection at West End Johnnie’s. The sergeant and detective spoke to the general manager informing him of the October 30 incident and asked for help in securing video. As a result of the incident, they issued a licensed premise inspection notice for drug use on the premises (patrons claim they were drugged by an unknown man inside premises). The general manager signed for an accepted the notice.

Live Boston reached out to West End Johnnie’s for comment.

October 31, 2021

Officers were flagged down around 1:15 a.m. at 106 Dorchester Street in South Boston. The officers reported seeing a woman lying on the ground, incoherent and going in and out of consciousness. The victim’s friend told police they just left Lincoln Tavern and Restaurant (West Broadway) when her friend started to vomit and said she didn’t feel right. They walked around the corner when the victim collapsed and again stated she didn’t feel right. The victim’s friend said the victim then started going in and out of consciousness and wasn’t responding. The victim’s friend said the victim only had a few drinks. She believed the victim’s drink was spiked. Boston EMS was delayed citywide. The officers noted the victim was less responsive and had very light breathing. They transported her to Boston Medical Center.

Live Boston contacted Lincoln Tavern and Restaurant for comment.

November 5, 2021

The victim said she and her roommate arrived at West End Johnnie’s (Portland Street) around 9:30 p.m. She said over the course of two hours, while in the basement bar, she had two alcoholic drinks. She noted who bought the drinks, but the name or description is redacted in the police report. The victim said while dancing downstairs, she recalled a group of men who she didn’t know buying her and her friend shots. She noted the shots tasted different than the first shot she had at the beginning of the night. The victim said her friend remembered the shot tasting “salty.” 30 minutes after taking the shots with the unknown men, the victim and her friend reported feeling “stomach sick” and went to the bathroom. After about 30 minutes in the bathroom, they stumbled outside. One of their roommates picked them up. The victim said she doesn’t remember much of the night after that point. She said her friends told her she was vomiting a lot before getting into the car and had to be carried into the apartment. Her friends also performed a sternal rub and noted she didn’t respond to the stimulation. The victim said she spent all night and part of the morning in and out of consciousness. She said the following morning was a bit blurry. The victim purchased an at-home drug test and the results showed signs of benzodiazepines in her system. The victim said her friend called West End Johnnie’s to report what happened. The general manager said he would review the video footage and get back to her with anything he discovered.

November 30, 2021

A woman reported to police she may have been roofied while in Boston on business. She said she wasn’t too sure about what happened until talking to friends about reports of people having their drinks spiked in the Boston area. The woman said she went to Bricco (Hanover Street) with a client and had three or four Cosmopolitans (“Cosmos”). The woman said she then went to Warehouse Bar & Grille (Broad Street) to meet with a colleague. She noted nothing was out of the ordinary and they ordered one drink, a Cosmopolitan, which she said she didn’t finish. She then recalls walking into the lobby of her hotel, Courtyard by Marriott Boston Downtown/North Station (Beverly Street), and heading to her room. She said she has no recollection of what happened after she walked into her room. She said she woke up six hours later with the worst headache she’s ever had, naked in the bed, lying on her back, sheets covering her body, hands resting on the sheets and two pillows propped up behind her. She noted she usually sleeps on her side. The woman said there were two towels on the floor and a used bottle of hotel shampoo, shave gel and a yellow heart on the sink in the bathroom. She said none of her toiletries were disturbed. She noted she never uses hotel toiletries and wouldn’t typically shower before bed. The woman told police she wasn’t sure if she was assaulted and there was no evidence that anyone else was inside her room, aside from the two towels on the floor and the yellow heart left on the sink. She said she thought it was strange and took pictures, which she sent to investigators. She said she was dizzy the next morning and felt like she was going to faint. She believes someone may have slipped something into her drink or even struck her with something at some point the previous evening, noting soreness in the neck but no sign of a puncture wound. She is concerned about her loss of memory and the way she felt the next day, which she described as not a typical hangover. The woman said she is concerned something may have happened to her inside her hotel room, such as someone assaulting her to taking pictures of her. Police noted in the report the woman didn’t feel as if she had been sexually assaulted, but she wasn’t sure.

December 11, 2021

Officers responded around 10:30 p.m. to Our House East (Gainsborough Street) for a report of a woman who drank too much and was unconscious. The manager directed officers to the bar when they arrived. The officers noted the woman appeared heavily intoxicated and was unable to stand up. She was being held onto a chair by a group of people. The bartender told the officers she had served the victim her drinks all night. The bartender said she believed the victim may have had a “date rape drug” put in her drink. The bartender said the victim had about six mixed drinks and smoked pot. The victim was taken to Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

Live Boston submitted a public records request to the Boston Police Department for all police reports relating to ‘spiked drinks’ dating back to January 1, 2021. A half-dozen of the reports we received were labeled as “sick assists” and didn’t indicate the persons had consumed alcohol or had been drugged at a bar or club.

July 15, 2021

Officers responded around 7:30 p.m. to the corner of Hanover and Parameter streets for a sick assist. They found a man vomiting in the street. The man was taken to Massachusetts General Hospital.

July 20, 2021

Officers responded around 10:15 p.m. to 1 Nassau Street in Chinatown for a woman who didn’t feel well and said she might have ingested an unknown substance. Officers helped the victim walk to Tufts Medical Center.

August 21, 2021

Officers responded around 2:30 a.m. to the intersection of Boylston and Charles streets where a man was lying on a “floor” unknown of his condition. The officers noted as they approached the man he appeared intoxicated. The man said he wanted to go to a hospital. Boston EMS transported him to Tufts Medical Center.

October 1, 2021

Officers responded around 3 a.m. to the South Street Diner (Kneeland Street) where they found a victim inside an ambulance. Boston EMS noted the man was unconscious and they performed CPR. The man regained consciousness, became alert and was transported to Tufts Medical Center.

November 5, 2021

Officers responded around 9 p.m. to the intersection of Stuart and Warrenton streets in the Theater District. The caller stated he required an ambulance because he was unable to stand. He was taken to Tufts Medical Center.

Tips for Staying Safe

Boston Police encourages everyone to look out for each other when gathered in social settings by creating a ‘buddy system’ to prevent getting separated. The department also offers other steps you can take on your own to help ensure your personal safety:

  • Be sure that your drink is being served directly by the bartender or your server. Don’t allow people you don’t know or trust to order drinks and deliver them to you.
  • Watch your drink at all times. Never leave your drink unattended.
  • Take your drink with you to the restroom if need be.
  • Keep your hand covered over your drink when you’re not looking at it. Many creative inventions exist that can help you cover your drink.
  • Test your drink with test strips or nail polish that light up a certain color if they detect drugs.
  • Get help immediately if you begin to feel dizzy, nauseated, light-headed or strange in any way.

Be aware of any uncharacteristic behavior from your acquaintances and be wary of strangers trying to lure people away from their friends. If you see anyone who appears to be in distress, wandering alone late at night or dressed unsuitably for the weather, call police immediately.

Licensing Board Advisory

On November 22, 2021, the City of Boston Licensing Board released an advisory regarding safety concerns and best practices in nightclubs and other licensed establishments.

Editor’s note: If you or someone you know is a survivor of sexual assault, contact the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-4673 or at www.rainn.org. If you are in immediate danger, call 911.