Walking to his ride-share pickup point and smoking a cigarette after a late show at the Twilite Lounge, a man, who has asked to remain anonymous, was approached by two men who asked him for a light. One of the men lit what looked like a blunt, appeared to take a hit and offered it to the anonymous man, who accepted, thinking nothing of the gesture, which he considers a common practice among smokers.
“I immediately felt that something was different,” he said. This weed was heavy, he thought, but then “things started to get a little fuzzy.”
Come talk to us, the men said, and led him to the tucked-back doorway of Club Dada, where he leaned up against the wall. They asked how his night was going, but he physically could not respond. Realizing he was still holding the joint, he tried to hand it back.
“Nah, man, I don't want any of that shit,” the victim recalled the man saying.
“That's when I knew I was fucked,” he said.
Before entering what he described as a kind of inward-facing mental nightmare world in which he was completely aware that he was not aware of or connected to the world around him, he remembered feeling hands in his pockets. He estimated that the time between being asked for a light and semi-passing out was only a couple of minutes.
“I thought that's what happens when you die, your mind is disconnected from your body,” he said.
When he came to, his phone, wallet and a pack and a half of cigarettes were gone from his pockets.
According to the Dallas Police Department, there have been three such incidents in the past two weeks in Deep Ellum. The muggings followed a similar pattern: the victims all reported accepting the offer of what they perceived as a marijuana joint. Each time, after taking a hit, the victim lost consciousness. Upon coming to, each victim noticed that he was missing possessions.
Except, according to the anonymous victim, what happened isn’t really like losing consciousness.
“It's hard to describe; it's like I was stuck in a ball or something and I couldn't get out of it, and I was completely aware that I couldn't get out,” he said.
The first incident occurred around 1:35 a.m. July 11 near 2720 Elm St. Police records show two more incidents on July 14 at 2:30 a.m. and 3 a.m., one in the 2500 block of Main Street and one at an unreported location.
The first victim told police he was approached by two black males, one who was between 5 feet and 5 feet, 5 inches tall and roughly 190 pounds, and the other about 6 feet tall, who weighed about 170 pounds and wore a white do-rag.
Both July 14 victims described being approached before the incident by a single male between 20 and 30 years old. One man described the man who handed him the supposed joint as wearing blue pajama pants and a gray T-shirt.
Dallas Police declined to provide information about the substance in the joints.
When the victim the Dallas Observer spoke with came to, he found scratches on his forehead, which made him think he face-planted, and he had vomit on his shirt. A man he described as a guardian angel-like figure standing near him handed him water and told him he had been “K2ed.” K2 is a synthetic cannabinoid and can be combined with other, more toxic substances. It is much stronger than THC, and the use of it can lead to psychosis and vomiting, among other effects.
In recent years, the Deep Ellum Foundation, a local nonprofit whose mission is to oversee and guide improvement and marketing of the neighborhood, has stepped up safety efforts in the area through its Deep Ellum Safety Program. The combination of off-duty Dallas police officer patrols, a neighborhood security guard program, and public safety and community engagement programs coincided with a 9% drop in reported crimes in 2018 compared with 2017, according to the organization's website.
But there is always an uptick in activity in Deep Ellum during the summer months, said Stephanie Hudiburg, executive director of the Deep Ellum Foundation. More people mean more incidents.
The foundation prepares months in advance for the summer influx of crowds and activity and tracks crimes reported in the area from DPD reports by the month and annually, coordinating with the police department and adjusting in reaction to trends they observe.
Last month there were five robberies reported in Deep Ellum, Hudiburg said. These three incidents are not necessarily out of the ordinary in terms of the number of overall summertime muggings in the area.
What is concerning, said the mugging victim, is the nature of the incidents. He describes himself as a large man and previously thought his size would keep him relatively safe.
“It's something everyone needs to be aware of. I can't imagine if I'd been a smaller woman,” he said.
“It's so effective and it seems so innocent,” he said, noting that the men who approached him looked like normal guys.
Even so, the victim refused to let the mugging slow him down. As soon as he had replaced his ID and debit card, he returned to nights out in Deep Ellum.
“Yeah, there is violence there and bad things do happen there. A bad thing happened to me,” he said. “I'm just not going to live in fear.”