GILES CO., Tenn. (WKRN) — Giles County law enforcement agencies are on the hunt for a man who has brazenly broken into smoke shops and assaulted clerks.
Investigators said the man is after a product known as ZaZa Red, which is a stimulant recently banned in Alabama. However, it’s still sold in Tennessee and many other states.
The product contains a substance known as Tianeptine. It’s often marketed as an energy product and dietary supplement. It’s commonly sold in gas stations and vape stores.
According to numerous publications, both the FDA and the CDC have issued warnings about the drug, which they have not approved for the U.S.
On March 15, 2021, the Alabama Department of Public Health classified Tianeptine as a Schedule II controlled substance. That measure now prohibits stores from selling it over the counter in that state.
Since that time, Tennessee counties bordering Alabama, like Giles County, have reported an increase in incidents at stores selling the product.
According to Giles County Detective Shane Hunter, one man seeking Za Za Red and similar products allegedly struck stores four times.
Detective Hunter said one of them has been hit three times by thieves. Another store owner has put bars up on his business to keep the thieves out.
Giles County shared surveillance video of the suspect described as white, heavy set, with a distinct limp.
In the video he leans over the counter and steals the product. Video also shows that man using a hammer to break out a smoke shop glass door. After making entry, he heads to the counter.
Detectives are even more concerned because the man has allegedly threatened clerks. Despite claiming he had a gun, he did not display one.
Additionally, the videos show several physical interactions between the man and female clerks as they appear to wrestle for the products.
Detective Hunter said the escalation in the man’s behavior is concerning. “It can escalate at any time. Where does he draw the line? Is he going to brandish a weapon?”
Za Za Red is often marketed as an energy booster, but according to the FDA it contains Tianeptine, which can stimulate opioid receptors making it addictive.
When Alabama outlawed the sale of the products, sales also increased at border stores that carry the product – like Giles County.
Though the product is available for sale, the Giles County suspect is breaking into the stores and stealing it.
Detectives said it’s hard to know what the suspect’s situation or motivation is.
“Obviously, I think Alabama is ahead of the game. They have labeled it a schedule II and outlawed it,” Detective Hunter continued, “One can assume he is highly addicted to this product and
obviously needs resources to get him the help he needs.”
The suspect is facing a long list of charges including armed robbery, burglary and theft. He was often seen driving a 2009 Toyota Avalon. If you know him, you are urged to contact the Giles County Sheriff’s Office at (931) 363-1635.