If you had to pick the most influential beverage of the 21st century so far, it would have to be the energy drink. Packed with caffeine, sugar and sometimes even alcohol, these potent potions have become part of many people’s diets. Unfortunately, the strong combination of stimulants can also drive people to make poor choices, like commit crimes. Here are ten cases where energy drinks played a part.
Woody Will Smith, 2009
People use the caffeine in energy drinks as a way to keep themselves going when they really should slow down. It’s kind of a symptom of the hyper-accelerated society we find ourselves in. Woody Will Smith was a Kentucky man who discovered his wife was having an affair in 2009. Afraid that if he fell asleep she would abscond with their children, Smith used Monster Energy Drink, caffeine pills and soda to keep himself awake for weeks. Driven to the brink of madness by sleep deprivation, Smith strangled his wife with an electrical cord. A jury found him guilty of murder and sentenced him to life in prison.
Sergio Velderrain, 2012
Four Loko, the hybrid product that combined the alcohol of a six-pack of beer with the caffeine of five cups of coffee, took the world by storm in 2010. The combination of a stimulant with a depressant creates a state in the brain where drinkers can do just about anything. Just ask Sergio Velderrain, a Phoenix, Arizona, man who got loaded on the stuff in March 2012, stumbled into his house and peed all over his four-month-old baby boy. As he drained his bladder, Velderrain commented, “Now he has something to remember his dad by.” He was picked up on felony child abuse charges.
Unnamed Russian Man, 2013
We try to only spotlight criminals who have their names revealed in these features, but this story is too juicy to leave out. Russian newspaper Pravda reported that a man from the Omsk region downed a staggering ten cans of Jaguar, an alcoholic carbonated energy drink that is popular in the post-Soviet nations. The assault of booze and stimulants tweaked his brain enough to convince him that it would be a good idea to take his mother and live-in girlfriend hostage and then demand that his brother be released from prison in exchange for their safety. Needless to say, the Russian cops took him out and he’s now facing 15 years in prison with his brother.
Jyong Chul Lee, 2012
One of the biggest groups of energy drink consumers are students, who use the caffeine and other stimulants to stay up cramming for exams (or just partying). Unfortunately, the side effects of binging can lead to unwanted consequences. In October 2012, Korean student Jyong Chul Lee, studying abroad at Nova Scotia’s Cape Breton University, had a Red Bull-induced freakout where he threatened his RA. The police were called and learned that perfectionist Lee drank massive amounts of the energy drink to stay up late. He was charged with creating a disturbance and criminal harassment and deported back to South Korea.
100 Rioters, 2013
The biggest incidence of energy drink-inspired violence happened in Glasgow, Ireland, in January 2013. As clubs were letting out on a Saturday night, a posse of men coming out of the popular Sugarcube nightclub decided to keep the party going. The club had been offering a special deal on Red Bull, and the spike of caffeine and sugar in the bloodstreams of Fahad Said, Gary Haldane, Jack Fraser, Lewis Holton and Edward Percy spurred them to jump atop cars, block traffic, throw bottles and cause other mayhem along with about 95 other people (most of whom fled before the police arrived). Said’s lawyer claimed that the Red Bull his client had been served altered his perceptions enough that he thought his behavior was normal and appropriate.
Ahmed Mohamed, 2010
If you’re not used to energy drinks, the effect they can have on you can be a little hard to deal with. Such is the case with Ahmed Mohamed, who tried that notorious concoction Four Loko for the first time on a spring night in 2010. While walking with a friend, Mohamed saw a teen named Shane McClellan and stopped him to ask for a light. When McClellan turned around, Mohamed and his pal started attacking him, punching him viciously, beating him with a belt, burning him with cigarettes, urinating on him and pouring Four Loko on his quivering body. Police caught the two men near the scene still with blood on their hands and they were taken into custody.
Unidentified Australian Girls, 2013
The perpetrators of this crime have not been brought to justice as of press time, but maybe shining a light on their energy drink-inspired crime will spur a witness to step forward. In June 2013, 56-year-old Melbourne man Roger Stapleford got on the train to head home after a day’s work. When he asked a young woman to move her leg from an empty seat so he could rest his knee, she refused, so he moved it for her. Then the girl and her friend lost it, pouring a half-empty energy drink can over his head before throwing it hard enough to open a bloody gash in his face. She then unleashed a torrent of verbal abuse on the poor guy. The whole nasty affair was videotaped.
Justin Barker, 2010
The last thing Florida man Justin Barker remembers before the police woke him up and put him in handcuffs is drinking a can of Four Loko at his friend Shannon’s house. She reports that after he finished the energy drink, 21-year-old Barker began screaming incoherently and ran off into the night. He then punched through a sliding glass door to ransack the home of a 70-year-old woman (who was thankfully not at home). The sight of his own blood drove him even crazier, and he trashed the place, ripping the door off of the oven and defecating on the floor. He then ripped off all of his clothes and ran to another house, where he passed out naked on the couch. The horrified homeowner found him hours later and phoned the cops.
Stephen Coffeen, 2009
Here’s a textbook example of the power these drinks have to mess with your head. Stephen Coffeen was an ordinary Florida Joe who was suffering from sleep deprivation and resorted to Red Bull to keep him awake and sharp during the day. The mental stress caused by that eventually led him to snap and kill his 83-year-old father in his bed, suffocating him with a pillow. The case never went to trial, as a panel of psychiatric experts concluded that Coffeen was not guilty by reason of insanity.
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Matthew Paul Emmett, 2013
Here’s another case where Four Loko, that dastardly mixture of energy drink and malt liquor, was to blame for criminal behavior. In April 2013, officers in Sebastian, Florida responded to a call from a Burger King complaining of a man exposing his private parts to customers and staggering around their parking lot. When they got there, they discovered Matthew Paul Emmett lying in the grass with several empty Four Loko cans next to him. Patrons of the restaurant told police that he was flashing his parts at them through the window and also took a dump on the sidewalk.