A 19-year-old man who smashed through the front window of a Florida home and attacked a woman and her adult son said he was on the powerful street drug flakka, a sheriff said Monday.
Martin County Sheriff William Snyder told a press conference that Niko Gallo told the woman that before breaking into the house he had taken flakka and LSD. Snyder said the case appears similar to one two weeks ago where Austin Harrouff, also 19, randomly beat and stabbed a couple to death at their Martin County home and then bit the dead man's face.
While Harrouff told deputies he was not on drugs, both he and Gallo demonstrated incredible strength and a high tolerance to pain, Snyder said. Harrouff's blood is still being tested and Gallo's will be. Neither Gallo nor Harrouff had a criminal record before the attacks.
"It is just inexplicable," Snyder said. "I have no words to describe it."
Flakka gained notoriety nationally last year, as several people in South Florida went on crazed rampages under its influence. It had virtually disappeared since the Chinese government cracked down on its manufacture last year.
Snyder said the drugs Gallo took were bought in Margate, and he called Margate the "epicenter" of flakka.
"Although the Margate Police Department Special Operations Unit is actively working open investigations involving drugs of this nature, The City of Margate should not be considered the 'Epicenter' of this designer drug, contrary to the statement issued earlier today by Martin County Sheriff’s Office," Margate Police said in a statement Monday. "After reviewing the Margate Police Department’s arrest reports, it was determined that the police department has had minimal interactions with individuals under the influence of this substance. The department takes these issues relating to drugs within our community seriously. The Margate Police Department continues to investigate and utilize all of our department resources to ensure the safety of our citizens."
The latest attack happened early Sunday morning. Snyder said the woman heard someone trying to open her front door and heard him saying, "Sorry, I'm going to die." A short time later, Gallo used his hand to break the plate-glass window in the front of her home, then did a "cannonball'' through it and grabbed her by the shoulder, Snyder said. She broke away and screamed for her 34-year-old son.
According to Snyder, the son, who weighed 100 pounds more than Gallo, fought him from one end of the house to the other. Meanwhile, his mother hit Gallo on the head several times with a metal baseball bat.
"She was in fear for her life and her son's life,'' Snyder said.
Snyder said deputies handcuffed the man and bound his feet because he was kicking them. They took him by ambulance to a hospital because "he was too violent to be placed in a rescue helicopter," deputies said.
The woman was treated at a hospital after being injured by broken glass. Her son wasn't injured.
"They were pretty shocked by this, Snyder said. The victim's house is within walking distance of where the suspect was and they don't know each other. It was just another random crash into someone's house.
He said Gallo will be charged with burglary and assault when he is released from the hospital. The Martin County public defender's office said it has not been assigned the case and it wasn't immediately known if Gallo has an attorney.
The sheriff said the circumstances are similar to the Aug. 15 attack involving Harrouff. In that attack, deputies said Harrouff, who was home for summer break from Florida State University, stabbed and beat John Stevens, 59, and his wife Michelle Mishcon, 53. Both died at the scene. Deputies said they found Harrouff biting Stevens' face and stomach.
Harrouff has been in a West Palm Beach hospital since that night. On Friday, authorities said he regained consciousness. Snyder said he'll be charged with two counts of first-degree murder when he's released from the hospital. He also faces charges for attacking a neighbor who tried to help Stevens and Mishcon.
His attorney and parents have said he had been exhibiting mental health problems in the days leading up to the attack.