Heroin, a fire, and an insider: The Troubleshooter investigates

Published: May. 12, 2021 at 6:22 PM EDT
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - While hidden in a surveillance vehicle, WAVE 3 News was able to record up to 20 people per hour walking into a multi-unit house at 103 St. Catherine Street with wads of cash, walking out with small packages, or injecting heroin outside. One customer was also recorded overdosing.

He was one of the 11 overdoses there in five months. In fact, he admitted to OD’ing on back-to-back days.

“I injected a normal amount I would normally inject,” the man told WAVE 3 News. “It took me out. Immediately, the minute I did it. Died basically. They had to do CPR, put tubes down my throat, to get me back. Narcan didn’t work so I was in the hospital six days.”

He agreed to open up about the heroin operation on St. Catherine if his identity was concealed because he said he would be killed for what he was revealing.

”You have one apartment where there’s a lady that sells heroin and fentanyl and meth, and there’s people there using [drugs], kind of like a flop house,” he said. “Then another apartment there is what they call a ‘plug’ — the guy that supplies the heroin. The people there, they’ll take anything — $10, $15, if you have guns, food stamps. People go and boost and steal and go there to trade.”

He said the Atlanta supplier is often inside the house and has been in business there for over a year, so he doesn’t have much fear.

”They’re armed and ready,” he explained. “They have contingency plans in place, and if they do get locked up, they’re gonna be able to make bail, believe me. They make thousands and thousands of dollars a day there. You saw 20 people in one hour. That’s one hour. If I can go there to buy a gram to an ounce, that’s a lot of drugs. The rat-hole goes deep, you know. That’s not like a small fish in a big pond. It’s a big fish.”

In the past six months, WAVE 3 News has seen police officers at 103 St. Catherine several times but has seen only one arrest for a vehicle break-in, which was documented on the Louisville Metro Police Department Crime Tracker.

The assistant police chief, Lt. Colonel Andy McClinton, said this at the time of WAVE 3 News’ first report on the St. Catherine operation: “If we stop someone leaving a place with narcotics generally, we can arrest them, cite them, but if we do arrest them, they’re out in a matter of 4 to 6 hours. Then when you look at the drug dealers, generally we have to arrest those folks numerous times before they get any prison time or consequences.”

“There’s hundreds and hundreds of cars go by every day,” the drug house customer said. “Police go by there every day. They know what’s going on there. So it’s like, how is this happening?”

The man is currently in rehab. He revealed the other heroin hot spot in town was nearby at Ormsby and Floyd, so WAVE 3 News spent time there secretly watching and recording.

Up to 20 people per hour were caught coming and going from 312 Ormsby — cash out with and hand-to-hand transactions out front. Cars pulled up all day and exchanges were made through the windows. Sometimes it was so busy, dealers fanned out and served two cars at a time.

On the rare occasions when someone wasn’t home, customers piled up out front waiting.

“It’s easier to buy heroin than it is for me to go buy cigarettes at Thornton’s at 1st and Broadway,” the drug house customer revealed.

A neighbor that lives near the Ormsby house told WAVE 3 News he has seen everything there from 20 people at a time dealing and doing drugs to a woman dead in the doorway. He didn’t mention the syringes and orange caps littering the ground around the house.

While the drive-through lane at 312 Ormsby was staying busy daily, all the drivers passing by above it on I-65 got introduced to the house on April 15 when it went up in smoke and flames. Suddenly, a different kind of crowd was out front: 50 firefighters unknowingly tried in vain to save a place that one of its former customers said was burning a hole of misery into the souls of the addicted and plenty of other people too.

One thing did not get scorched in the fire: the makeshift homicide memorial a few feet away marking the spot where a man was shot to death months earlier.

”The crime goes way deeper, and the pain and suffering,” he said. “The things people are doing to go there and get the money for the drugs, you got people selling their bodies, doing things to their families, stealing from the community, breaking in places, robbing people. Heroin is one of the only drugs people will kill for that I know of.”

WAVE 3 News shared the findings from Ormsby with Louisville arson investigators. Major Kevin Fletcher, the LFD Arson Unit chief, said they were unable to determine whether the fire was set or an accident.

He said there were signs of drug use in the basement, and the basement is where the fire started.

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