A 30-year-old Florida woman with a 4-year-old in tow forked over $20 for heroin and headed to a Sarasota convenience store to shoot up “because the drive to use” was too strong to ignore, authorities said.
Amanda Riley walked into a Wawa with the small child Friday night and went straight to the bathroom, police said. Five minutes later, a store clerk stumbled upon the sort of tragic scene that is becoming all too familiar as an opioid epidemic plagues the nation.
Riley was unconscious — and the crying child near her “appeared frightened, was alone and uncared for,” according to a police report cited by the Bradenton Herald.
Riley was treated for an overdose and later arrested and charged with felony child neglect without great bodily harm, according to the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office. Records show she was released Saturday.
Riley could not immediately be reached for comment, and it’s unclear whether she has an attorney.
A Wawa clerk declined to speak about the incident.
Children have become innocent victims in the opioid epidemic that’s destroying families from coast to coast. Some have seen their parents shoot up and overdose, occasionally with fatal consequences. Others have unwittingly and unwillingly faced overdoses themselves.
In September, a chilling photograph distributed by the authorities captured the innocence lost on a 4-year-old’s face in East Liverpool, Ohio, where a man and woman were seen slumped over after overdosing in a vehicle, the boy still strapped into his car seat in the back.
A week later and 600 miles away, at a Family Dollar store in Lawrence, Mass., a hysterical toddler was captured on a cellphone video as she tried to wake her mother after an apparent drug overdose. The video showed the toddler, dressed in pink-and-purple “Frozen” pajamas, pulling her mother’s fingers, then sitting down beside her and shaking her mother’s face.
The mother was arraigned last week on a child endangerment charge.
In October, a 7-year-old girl in McKeesport, Pa., told her school bus driver that she hadn’t been able to wake the adults in her house for days, and that their bodies were beginning to change colors. She had been caring for three other children in the home — ages 5, 3 and 9 months — and had gotten herself back and forth to school, police said. Her parents were dead.
Then last month, a couple in Washington state made national news when police said they had been injecting their young children with heroin, which they reportedly called “feel good medicine.”
“The kids lived in deplorable conditions,” Pierce County Sheriff’s Department spokesman Detective Ed Troyer told The Washington Post at the time. “It wasn’t a good living situation even without the issue of heroin.”
“We unfortunately find kids living in deplorable conditions all too often, but we don’t see parents intentionally putting drugs into kids,” he added.
In Florida, Sarasota County sheriff’s deputies responded to a call Friday about a possible overdose at the Wawa convenience store, police said in a statement.
First responders administered the opioid antidote Narcan and rushed Riley to a hospital for treatment, police said.
Riley later admitted to deputies that she bought heroin that night and then injected it in the store bathroom, police said.
Police said the 4-year-old child who was with her was found safe and released to relatives. Authorities said they could not disclose the nature of Riley’s relationship to the child.
Sarasota Sheriff’s Maj. Paul Richard, a law enforcement division commander, told The Post that the opioid problem in the county is similar to what public health and police officials are seeing elsewhere in the nation.
Opioids, including heroin, are the main drivers of overdose deaths nationally, accounting for more than 28,000 deaths in 2014, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In Florida that year, there were 2,634 deaths, according to the CDC.
Richard said authorities in Sarasota County have seen a spike in overdoses related to heroin — especially when the drug is cut with fentanyl, a synthetic opioid many times more potent than heroin. But, he said, authorities in the county have been working to combat it.
“When we respond to one of these, we don’t just work it as an overdose,” he said, explaining that authorities try to identify and then cut off the problem at the source.
Last year, the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office became the first law enforcement agency in the state to issue naloxone auto-injectors to deputies to try to help reduce the number of opioid overdose deaths.
“The rising number of overdose deaths from heroin and opioid-based prescription drugs is one of the top concerns for our community,” Sarasota County Sheriff Tom Knight said at the time. “This product delivers a potentially life-saving dose of naloxone by a simple to use auto-injector system that is easy to carry and administer to someone experiencing an opioid overdose.”