Drug Diversion and Abuse: Senseless Acts of Violence in the Pharmacy Again

Cmdr John Burke
Published Online: Wednesday, July 17, 2013
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Measures can be taken to reduce and improve the outcome of crime in the pharmacy.
As I write this article, another senseless act of violence has occurred in one of America's pharmacies. In Bean Station, Tennessee, a small town of about 3000 people, employees at the Down Home Pharmacy were likely at the start of another typical day of filling prescriptions and talking to customers about everything from the weather to what’s going on for Memorial Day weekend. No one, inside or outside, suspected that it was not just another typical day.

At approximately 11:15 am, a man wearing a hoodie and rubber gloves entered the pharmacy, where the owner was present along with 1 customer and 2 other employees. The man carried a .22 revolver and announced a robbery and that he wanted all of the oxycodone. The pharmacist apparently complied, and after receiving several bottles of 100-count oxycodone, the man decided to execute the 4 innocent people in the pharmacy.

At this point, no one really knows why he shot and killed the owner and the customer, and ended up wounding both of the female employees, who survived after being flown to a critical care hospital. He left the pharmacy, but fortunately didn’t get far, as several local police agencies responding to the call and arrested him, apparently without incident. They recovered the gun and the bottles of oxycodone from the suspect.

To add to this horrific fiasco, the perpetrator turned out to be a former Bean Station police officer. He had worked there from 2002 to 2004, then worked for the local county sheriff’ s office, before leaving his wife and moving in with his mother in Bean Station. That’s where he was staying until that fateful and tragic day when he killed 2 people for no reason and tried to kill 2 more.

In a town this small, was the killer recognized by one of the people inside the pharmacy? Did that cause him to panic and go on a shooting rampage that would change the lives of many people? It is bad enough that innocent people died, and that the survivors will likely have issues over what they saw and heard and what happened to them, but the damage in these incidents is almost endless. Wives, husbands, brothers, kids, and more can all be part of this damage that a man, apparently addicted to oxycodone, decided to inflict on other human beings.

After the damage is done, folks always want to know what the people inside could have done differently to keep this from happening or how pharmacies can prepare themselves better for this kind of violence in the future. Are the answers better cameras, alarm systems, more training for pharmacy staff to be alert and try to recognize that this can happen to them? Understandably, we are always looking to see what mistakes were made so that no one makes those same mistakes in the future, and thus save lives.

This reminds me of another horrific pharmacy murder with the guy in New York, killing pharmacy staff and customers on a Saturday morning for the want of hydrocodone tablets. As much as we all hate to admit some things when it comes to trying to protect the public, there is likely very little or nothing that anyone could have done to prevent the crimes in Bean Station, Tennessee, or in New York.

This is frustrating for all of us, since law enforcement and others are always looking for solutions to prevent crime and keep citizens safe, but in this case, it appears nothing remotely reasonable could have been done to save these people’s lives.

I can remind you to continue to be vigilant in your pharmacy and don’t hesitate to call police if you have someone suspicious in your store. Also make sure simple things like your surveillance cameras are functional, and you cooperate with the robber in order to get him or her out of your store as quickly as possible.

I know that the pharmacy employees in Bean Station, Tennessee, did just that, and had an incredibly bad ending, but the odds of that happening in this situation are still extremely low. Do all you can to prevent these offenses from happening, and then know that the odds are still very much in your favor of a safe outcome, which is the most important outcome.


Cmdr Burke is a 40-year veteran of law enforcement and the current president of the National Association of Drug Diversion Investigators. He can be reached by e-mail at burke@choice.net, via the website www.rxdiversion.com, or by telephone at 513-336-0070.


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