Studying in the writing center on campus in the afternoon was the last thing Sacramento State graduate student Haley Wooning remembers before regaining consciousness in a Vacaville hospital room at 4 a.m. the next morning.
A few days later, Wooning’s doctor disclosed the results of a toxicology screening performed on her at the hospital: “Acute benzodiazepine toxicity,” more commonly known as poisoning by tranquilizer.
Wooning’s doctor told her the amount of “benzos” found in her system is the source of her memory loss and says the substance is used commonly as a date rape drug.
Proudly three years sober and in recovery from an opioid addiction, Wooning said she has no idea how the drug could have gotten into her system, and after several weeks of investigation, neither does the Sacramento State Police Department.
A report was made over the phone the night of Sept. 10 by Robert Price, a Sac State student and Wooning’s boyfriend of five years.
Based on information pieced together by Wooning in the days following, two of Wooning’s Monday night classmates transported her home due to concerns for her health and safety, and Price said he immediately noticed something was wrong and called Sac State police.
“I was freaking out,” Price said. “Then she came home and I was relieved, but as soon as she came through the door, I knew something was wrong.”
“[She] was blacked out,” Price said.
The initial incident report reads that Price mentioned the possibility of Wooning being approached at the on-campus Round Table Pizza by a man offering her a beer, but both Wooning and Sac State detective Jason Johnston said there is no evidence that supports that had happened.
Based on the drug’s effects on Wooning’s body, which caused severe memory loss, Johnston said, “Conflicting statements are understandable.”
Johnston said the process of investigating cases like a potential drugging on campus includes detectives speaking to any parties with knowledge of the incident, requesting medical records in regards to what type of substance it was, which would give the investigating officers a better idea of when it was ingested based on time of memory loss, and checking all surveillance footage available to him.
“We have a lot of cameras on campus placed in the most strategic locations,” Johnston said. “However, it is up to the businesses on campus to put up cameras in [its] locations.”
One business is Round Table Pizza, located in the Union. Round Table is the only place on campus that students can order beer on tap.
In 2016, a study of three university campuses revealed that more than 1 in 13 students had reported being drugged. The study focused on “watch your drink” campaigns, saying leaving alcoholic beverages unattended is a likely way to be drugged without consent or knowledge.
The Sac State Police Department doesn’t deal with drugging incidents like Wooning’s often, Johnston said. But, he was concerned with the amount of video surveillance inside an establishment that serves alcohol on campus.
“I would recommend them to put more surveillance inside Round Table,” Johnston said. “I’m not in charge of surveillance, but it’s something I think we need to approach them about.”
Wooning and Price said they met and were interviewed by detectives at the campus police station the morning after the incident and once more in the week following.
“I feel like the detective tried really hard to present it as a safe place,” Wooning said. “I know the victim advocate on campus Hailey [Vincent] has been working really hard on emotional training with them. He said over and over that this is a safe place.”
However, Price says that Wooning’s disclosure of her history of drug addiction and current recovery seemed, “to open the door for judgment.”
“She is a recovering addict but she’s been clean for three years,” Price said. “I emphasized the point that she would never do anything to compromise her sobriety as it’s one of the most important things in her life.”
“I’ve met with them twice and they’ve asked me multiple times if I just took [the drug] myself while still saying, ‘This is a safe place,’” Wooning said. “And then following it up with, ‘If you did take it and you are lying, you can tell me and you won’t get in trouble.’ I do also want to say that I understand it. If they would have asked me once if I took it myself, I wouldn’t have really cared. But it’s the insistence.”
Wooning said she continues to engage in group therapy for her recovery from addiction.
“I’m actually still on the program for my addiction,” Wooning said. “I go to groups every week and I take drug tests every week.”
After her examination at the hospital, no evidence of sexual assault was found, which Wooning said she was thankful for.
Johnston confirmed that no assault happened according to his investigating.
“This particular drug has been documented to be used as a date rape drug. But there is no evidence that supports there was an attempt at assault,” Johnston said. “It is odd for a date rape drug to be used and no evidence of an attempt at assault.”