OC bar owner responds after multiple women say drinks were spiked, later raped
FULLERTON, Calif. - It is promoted as one of the hottest parties in town.
But now, this Fullerton hotspot is under fire after women allege their drinks were spiked there. Some even say were sexually assaulted after sipping the alleged spiked drinks.
"It took me a few years to move on," said one of the alleged victims of drugging and sexual assault. "It really did. I was depressed, suicidal. I was unhappy… it took me a whole year to go back to a bar."
The woman – who wanted to remain anonymous – says she was just 19 years old when she visited JP23 in September of 2015. She says a friend of a friend who knew security at the bar got her in.
The owner of JP23 says his bar has no knowledge of the date rape drugs being used on the premises and would never condone such behavior.
"There are multiple women who have come forward with allegations saying that they were drugged here at JP23 and later, off the grounds, sexually assaulted. What is your response to–" asked FOX 11's Chelsea Edwards.
"I don't know," responded Jacob Poozikala, the owner of JP23. "I haven't heard anything. I have not seen a real accusation - the only one I’ve seen so far is from her," he said, referring to 22-year-old Samantha Velasquez.
'LAST THING I REMEMBER'
Earlier in the month, FOX 11 spoke with Velasquez, a college student who says she was drugged at JP23 and later raped.
Velasquez was having drinks with a friend of a friend at JP23 when she met someone she didn't know.
"There was a crowd starting to form and the music was playing louder and that’s when I met these two girls. They offered me drinks that a man had bought them. And I didn’t think much of it," the young woman previously told FOX 11.
She started drinking the drink and the group moved to the bar area.
"We all started dancing, and that was the last thing I remember," Velasquez previously told FOX 11. "It just went completely black. And the next thing I remember is waking up in a Metro station parking structure."
PREVIOUS COVERAGE: Young woman says someone drugged, raped her during night out in Fullerton
A rape kit found that Samantha had suffered blunt trauma.
As for the anonymous woman, she says a man offered the woman and her friend shots from the bar.
"We take it and literally, like five, ten minutes later we just black out. The last thing I remember is dancing with my best friend," she said of the 2015 incident. "We ended up at an apartment at 4 in the morning… I wake up and I see my friend on the couch and someone's on top of her."
"Do you believe that you were raped that night?" asked Edwards.
"Yeah," the woman said of the 2015 incident. "Why would I have underwear off?"
Velasquez's story started a snowball effect, prompting other women to speak up about similar experiences at JP23 and accusing the bar of turning a blind eye to bad behavior.
Three other women came forward to FOX 11 in connection to incidents similar to what Velasquez and the anonymous woman say they went through.
Poozikala says his business is being unfairly maligned, and that allegations that the bar fosters a "rape culture" are baseless.
He’s even gone to the lengths of hiring a private investigator. A security video he claims shows Velasquez possibly inebriated and walking with unknown men in the hour after she left the bar the night she was allegedly attacked. He says it proves that any alleged drugging could have happened elsewhere.
As for all the other claims?
"I think it's BS," Poozikala said. "No, there’s no way. Like I said, we’ve been having – we’re the busiest bar for the last how many years – every Friday, Saturday night. If this is the case, why do people keep coming back here?"
BAR OWNER RESPONDS
Poozikala says his business tries to take care of people and keep an eye on what goes around at the car.
"But if somebody goes by and drops something in somebody’s drink," he said with a shrug. "That’s an instantaneous minute, we’ll never find out."
"Do you bear any responsibility for both what happens to people when they’re at this establishment and also when they leave your premises?" asked Edwards,
"Everything that happens here is my responsibility – you’re in my house, so I take full responsibility for what happens here and I want to take care of all my customers," Poozikala said.
PREVIOUS COVERAGE: Fullerton bar responds to allegation woman was drugged at its establishment
Now, some community members say it’s time for the business to be shut down. Several spoke out at a recent Fullerton City Council meeting.
"I am begging you, begging you as a mother. Please shut this place down," said Velasquez's mother.
There have been documented, unrelated problems at JP23 for years. Fullerton police records obtained by FOX 11 show hundreds of calls for service to the bar’s address for problems like assault and disturbance of peace, though they might not have stemmed from JP23 itself.
"This is the epicenter of downtown Fullerton. So if someone walks from Matador and comes this way or any other bars over there and comes this way, and gets into a fight, the call goes to here and then they put that on us," Poozikala explained.
In December of 2017, the police department told a City of Fullerton Planning Commission meeting that JP23 was in the top 5 to 10 percent of businesses that consistently violate their permits.
But police records from that meeting onwards show that calls for service continued on a weekly basis. On Friday, JP23 will be the subject of a "remedy hearing" with police and city officials – likely the first of its kind in Fullerton.
"The number one thing the public should always realize is the victims require belief. You have to support those that come out and are able to be brave enough to say this happened to me. That takes a lot of energy and courage. We should believe them. And those investigations should conclude," said Fullerton City Councilman Fred Jung.
‘THIS NEEDS TO STOP’
Velasquez says traumatic incidents like her Aug. 1 bar outing could stay with rape survivors for the rest of their lives.
The anonymous woman says hearing Velasquez's story broke her all over again.
"Hearing someone else go through that, it hurts me even more because I wish I could have done something back then, and maybe, I could have saved women from…going through that," she said.
Are you or someone you know a recent survivor of sexual assault? Help is available. Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN) provides a 24/7 national sexual assault hotline, which can be reached at 1-800-656-4673.