MN heroin dealer arranged sales on Reddit, murder charge says

The charge involves the May overdose of a St. Louis Park man

A murder charge filed this month against a Twin Cities man says he used Reddit to arrange heroin sales. 

The Hennepin County Attorney's office said Thursday Zachary Gontard, 37, is accused of selling heroin to a St. Louis Park man who was found dead in his apartment in May. An autopsy found the 23-year-old overdosed on a mix of heroin and fentanyl.

The criminal complaint against Gontard says phone records show he and the victim were using Reddit and traded messages agreeing on a price for a heroin sale. They arranged an exchange at a Minneapolis bar, investigators say, and surveillance video from the Camden Tavern and Grill shows them there on May 19. 

Gontard first made an exchange with another man, who police identified as Pierre Cooley, and then met with the victim. The St. Louis Park man was found dead on his bathroom floor a few days later after his parents and employer were unable to reach him.

"A search of Gontard's 'Reddit' account revealed he was offering to act as a middle man to purchase of heroin for numerous other individuals," the criminal complaint against him says. 

Gontard is now charged with third-degree murder. Hennepin County jail records show he posted a $50,000 bond and is due in court on September 11. Prosecutors say Pierre Cooley is not in custody. 

Heroin and Reddit

Reddit is a really popular site for discussions on pretty much everything, and that includes heroin and other opiates. 

A forum called "opiaterollcall" was shut down by Reddit a month ago. 

The Star Tribune says that's the forum where Gontard allegedly connected with his victim in May. 

After it was banned, a New York Times story noted that addicts and those recovering use Reddit discussions to congratulate each other for staying clean ... to lament the deaths of other users ... and sometimes to exchange advice and tips on getting high. 

The Times says after opiaterollcall was shut down much of the traffic shifted to another forum, which Reddit also closed.

On the other hand, the Guardian reported this summer that a Reddit forum called "r/opiates" started providing alerts to users about places where fentanyl (which is 100 times more potent than morphine) had been mixed with batches of other drugs.

The Guardian says the forum became "a lifesaving map for addicts navigating a minefield frequently filled with fentanyl." 

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