Bonney Lake Buckley Against Drugs had its first official group meeting Saturday, Feb. 2, at the Prairie Ridge Recreation Hall. Rhiannon Geffre, center, talked about how the group was started, what the group has accomplished so far — including needle clean-ups both around Bonney Lake businesses and in homeless camps, as well as lobbying the city of Bonney Lake to pass an anti-panhandling ordinance — and answered questions from the roughly 20 people who attended. Photo by Ray Miller-Still

Bonney Lake Buckley Against Drugs had its first official group meeting Saturday, Feb. 2, at the Prairie Ridge Recreation Hall. Rhiannon Geffre, center, talked about how the group was started, what the group has accomplished so far — including needle clean-ups both around Bonney Lake businesses and in homeless camps, as well as lobbying the city of Bonney Lake to pass an anti-panhandling ordinance — and answered questions from the roughly 20 people who attended. Photo by Ray Miller-Still

New anti-drug group sparks debate in Bonney Lake

Bonney Lake Buckley Against Drugs (BLBAD) says they’re helping addicts get clean and keeping the community safe from criminals. Others say the group is bordering on vigilante.

A new controversial anti-drug group has been making waves in the Bonney Lake community.

Bonney Lake Buckley Against Drugs (BLBAD) was formed in late October 2018 by resident Rhiannon Geffre to combat what she saw as a growing drug and crime problem in her city.

“We started noticing some of the issues with the city, so I started getting on local Facebook pages and saw it was a really big issue, which I was really surprised about,” she said.

After seeing an online photo of a bunch of needles behind a local restaurant, she decided to do something about it and formed the BLBAD Facebook page. Since then, BLBAD has gained more than 600 followers, though it’s unclear how many followers overlap.

The organization is now working on putting together regular group activities, but already has several under its belt.

First are the needle and paraphernalia clean-ups around the businesses that border the old WSU forest, a well-known locale for drug activity.

The group has also hosts what Geffre called “silent protests” out near the median between the Shell and Arco gas stations off state Route 410. Geffre picked this location, known as “Tweaker Island,” because it’s a common location for panhandlers.

The protests, she continued, are to educate people not to give panhandlers money or food. Instead, she said people should point panhandlers toward the Bonney Lake Food Bank, which has plenty to offer.

Additionally, BLBAD has helped organize 12-truck loads of furniture to furnish a new Oxford House coming into Bonney Lake. Oxford House is a non-profit network of sober living homes for recovering addicts. The Oxford House in Bonney Lake is scheduled to open by the end of February.

On an individual level, Geffre and her co-leader Jessica Goehri also try to help drug users get into rehab.

“We have a lot of eyes in the city, so when one of our members drives by and sees a local addict out there, me and Jessica hop in the truck and come up,” Geffre said.

As a former peer counselor, Geffre uses her skills to convince alleged addicts they can get clean and start their lives anew.

“It’s not like a therapy session… instead of saying, ‘How does that make you feel?’ you share your story, your personal history, and shared experience in order to make them feel comfortable,” she said. “You walk alongside them on their path to recovery or recovering from mental illness.”

Goehri also have seven years experience as a case manager.

This is rarely a group activity, both for ethical and safety reasons.

“Having somebody do that or try to connect that hasn’t had the schooling or the case management experience, I don’t ever want it to be unethical,” Geffre said. “That’s why me and [Jessica] jump in, for the most part.”

Geffre added they’ve been able to send two people to rehab through Pierce County’s Comprehensive Life Resources, a not-for-profit that offers myriad services.

But when it comes to people that are uninterested in getting clean, she continued, BLBAD’s goal is to help them leave the city.

“It’s a full-circle group. That’s the amazing thing about it, that we’re not one sided… if you commit a crime, you need to go to jail for that,” she said. “I know it’s hard to understand, but being full-circle, it’s working, because we have to advocate for the community. Not only for addicts — we have to advocate for the community affected by addicts.”

This is where much of the controversy comes in.

According to Geffre, the group collects information on many alleged drug users and dealers in Bonney Lake and shares it on BLBAD’s private page. Group members perform surveillance by taking photos and video, either while out doing their regular routine or by patrolling neighborhoods known for drug activity, as well as do social media research.

Geffre said much of this information is given to the Bonney Lake Police Department and the Pierce County Sheriff’s Office, and in some cases, has aided the departments in the apprehension of well-known criminals.

“From the very start, [BLBAD’s] been working with the city and the police,” she said, adding later that the group can be a bridge to aid law enforcement when their hands are tied by private property and probable cause laws.

BLPD Police Chief Brian Jeter said Geffre’s description of “working” with his department is a bit of a stretch.

“We don’t align ourselves with any group as we can’t make civilians ‘agents’ of the Bonney Lake Police Department. We make sure we enforce the law equally…. We just try to guide them, and make sure the Constitution is defended and people’s rights aren’t being violated and laws aren’t being violated,” Jeter said.

In general, Jeter said he has some anxiety about BLBAD and their “heavy-handed tactics.”

“We’re a little concerned about some members who claim to be with the group might be bordering on harassment or vigilante tactics,” he continued. “We’ve had several conversations with BLBAD, and they claim these people are not affiliated with their group, but we’ve had reports that they’re harassing the homeless.”

At least one video on BLBAD’s YouTube page appears to show this.

In a expletive-laden video originally posted on the BLBAD’s YouTube page, Geffre can be heard through a megaphone, yelling at a panhandler.

“Go back to Carbonado, you tweaker,” she says, clarifying in a later interview the man who was panhandling had just threatened a local business owner who offered him a job. “Nobody wants your tweaker [expletive] [expletive] here.”

“Yeah, you record, [expletive],” she then says to an off-screen bystander. “You panhandling too?”

The woman she appears to yell at was the wife of Pastor Jerry Ryan Roach, who attends the Bonney Lake Eastpoint Foursquare Church and preaches at Set Free Christian Fellowship, a faith-based recovery and discipleship program in Elma, WA. The Roaches were in Bonney Lake doing their own outreach to drug users. Jerry can be seen on the video conversing with the man bearing the brunt of Geffre’s insults.

“I was just blown away,” Roach said, recalling the encounter. “It was very apparent what she was doing. She was trying to antagonize them to threaten her, so she could call the police, which, from what I’ve heard, is kind of her M.O.”

In fact, the police were called, Geffre said, but they weren’t able to do anything about the threat.

“These guys were getting away with not only panhandling, but buying drugs, going into the Dollar Tree and shooting up, and I went up there and let him have it,” Geffre said, adding that she’s since had a conversation Set Free Christian Fellowship affiliates, although she believes Bonney Lake’s addict population isn’t interested in a faith-based rehab.

Over the past week, a dozen former BLBAD members and Bonney Lake community members contacted The Courier-Herald to tell various stories of harassment; being followed, having their photos taken and shared online or sent in a text to their cell phones, strange notes left at their homes, and threats of physical violence. Many of these people are part of their own Facebook page.

“That’s definitely a lie. That’s definitely slanderous,” Geffre said. “There was this whole group of people that we removed in the very beginning… real dramatic people.”

But these former members suggested the BLBAD administrators were the dramatic ones, and described an online environment where members couldn’t disagree with administrators or risk getting booted from the page and harassed.

Osseola Morgan, a former group member, described how she was ousted and then targeted and harassed by various group members.

She had an introductory meeting with Jeter during the first days of BLBAD, and she said Jeter “suggested” she step away from the group.

“I started asking about what Rhiannon was saying, about the police [being] on their side, [that] they support what they’re doing, all that stuff,” she said. “It turned out to be false, or she misunderstood what was being said. I’m not sure which. After that meeting, I [had to] find a way out.”

A few days later, Morgan said she helped BLBAD get a man into a detox facility, but he decided to check himself out. After a game of telephone, he was picked up at nearby McDonalds, where he had the police already called on him.

“We tried talking him into going elsewhere. We didn’t feel his safety, at best, was good in Bonney Lake, but he chose to come back,” she said. “He’s a legal adult — we can’t hold him hostage.”

After dropping him off back in the city, another group member apparently saw him and told Geffre, who “started blowing my phone up, yelling at me,” Morgan said. “After the thing went down with our client, [that’s] my way out.”

Since then, Morgan claimed to have been followed and have her picture taken. In screenshots sent to The Courier-Herald, a post in the private BLBAD Facebook page said Osseola Morgan and a man were “hindering progress towards addicts getting clean! They sit in the parking lots drinking and partying with addicts!”

Several comments suggest Morgan and the man were having an affair, and later, an administrator of the BLBAD private page — texted Morgan.

“Cheating on your husband!! Contacted your family you make me sick,” one text reads.

Morgan replied that she is not having an affair, and her husband is aware she and the man, who she personally knows, continue to try and help drug users get into rehab on their own personal time.

Geffre said Morgan was removed from the group because there were several incidents of her crossing ethical lines with addicts BLBAD were trying to help get clean.

“I started getting calls, saying she was going up late at night, meeting up with addicts wearing some revealing clothing,” Geffre said. “I talked to her, and I said, ‘I know that you haven’t been through the certified peer counselor training, I know that you haven’t been to school, but there are boundaries.’ There were several things that led up to her being removed.”

Geffre stuck by the claim that Morgan was having an affair and that she was seen drinking with known addicts.

Former member Jason Cordova said he was removed from the private Facebook page when he commented on a video where Geffre again used a megaphone to yell at a panhandler, writing that her tactics were wrong.

After being removed, he went on to make what he described as “sarcastic” comments on another Facebook page, saying he’d go out during a BLBAD protest with a panhandling sign, just to see what the group would do so he could “shred” them.

However, he continued, he had been sick in recent months and wasn’t making any money for his family. After one of his daughters asked him if they were going to lose the house, Cordova decided to make a sign asking people for any side jobs, and set up camp between the Arco and Shell gas stations.

“It was the most humiliating and humbling things I’ve done, because you’re admitting to the world you’re at rock bottom,” he later described.

Upon reflection, he supposed it was a bad idea to go out the same day as the BLBAD protest, but he still went out because it was Black Friday, and he hoped the increased foot traffic would help him. This is the same reason why BLBAD was going to protest that day, Geffre said.

He went out earlier than the protest was scheduled to start, but after a short time, a truck drove by and the driver, who was later identified as Billy McClanahan, approached him.

Cordova recorded the encounter, which starts off showing McClanahan saying, “Oh, you’re going to video tape me?… You’re out here panhandling when you have a [expletive] job, [expletive].”

McClanahan then takes Cordova’s sign, crumples it and throws it back, and then knocks the phone out of Cordova’s hand, all while the two yell and swear at each other. Cordova recovers his phone and follows McClanahan, trying and get video of the truck’s license plate. McClanahan then re-approaches Cordova with a plastic crate, and the two continue to yell until they separate.

“I did lose it. I have no problem saying that. I took that video and wrote up a post and put it on Facebook, and I specifically said, ‘I’m sorry for my joke,” Cordova said later. “My joking started part of this… [but] whether somebody is joking or somebody is irritating you, [it] doesn’t give you the right to get confrontational physically.”

McClanahan have been cited with disorderly conduct and instigating assault, and has pled not guilty in Bonney Lake Municipal Court.

Cordova was also charged with disorderly conduct, and plans to plead not guilty.

According to court documents, McClanahan told police Cordova kicked a plastic milk crate at him as he approached.

However, “the entire incident and both alleged assaults would have been avoided if McClanahan did not go out of his way to confront Cordova,” Officer Scott Kreider wrote in his writeup.

Geffre, who said she backs McClanahan “100 percent,” gave a different account of the incident, claiming Cordova yelled at McClanahan — who is a veteran — first, calling him a “baby killer,” and then started recording the video.

“Me, Billy, anybody in our group has never claimed to be above and beyond anything,” Geffre said. “We’re human. We have feelings and we’re passionate… I would have had the same reaction.”

This claim is not supported by the police report. McClanahan declined to comment about what happened before the video recording began, and Cordova denied being the instigator.

Geffre added she hopes both cases are dropped to “bring peace.”

In another video posted by BLBAD, Geffre and Goehri perform a mock interview, with Geffre posing as a suspected drug user and dealer in their neighborhood. She pretends to snort something out of tin foil and shoot up while her speech becomes unintelligible.

The wife of the man portrayed in the video denied drug activity in their house, adding that they allow the homeless to shower and do laundry at their place.

Geffre said making that video, which she described as a skit, was “an outlet” for her frustration with “haters” of BLBAD, and that she’s got it out of her system.

In a third video, Geffre is seen approaching a panhandler late at night, asking if she can get him a bed, food for his dog, or a job.

“I want you to know you don’t have to do this,” she said. “Every time I see you, I’m going to say that.”

Cordova said these extremes — yelling at and mocking panhandlers and addicts while at the same time trying to get them help — is untenable.

“You can’t tear somebody down and expect to go to them two days later and offer them help. How are you going to do that?” he said, adding that he’s had his own long journey struggling with addiction. “They’re not going to trust you, that you have their best interests for them.”

Geffre disagreed, saying her approach is exactly what addicts need.

“They know we’ll get them help, but they also know that hey, if you commit a crime, we’re going to help put you where you’re going to go,” she said.

Geffre added that residents in other communities, including Puyallup and Enumclaw, have expressed interest in setting up their own anti-drug crime-watch groups, based on BLBAD’s success.

BLBAD is also hoping to get non-profit status in the next six months.

CORRECTION: In the print version of this article, it was incorrectly stated Bonney Lake Buckley Against Drugs “helped facilitate” Oxford House coming into Bonney Lake. Oxford House’s outreach coordinator Shawna Taylor stated the organization is not affiliated with BLBAD. The individual who purchased the house in Bonney Lake that is expected to be used as an Oxford House happens to be a member of BLBAD.

Additionally, it was incorrectly stated BLBAD founder Rhiannon Geffre was a peer counselor for seven years. Jessica Goehri has seven years experience as a case manager.

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