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June 26, 2017 - 10:49pm

This weekend, Jason Lang lost his battle with drug addiction

posted by Howard B. Owens in crime, batavia, news.
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    Jason Lang

It wasn't really an overdose that killed Jason Lang, said his father Rick, but Jason's five-year battle with the dragon of drug addiction came to an end about 6:30 p.m., Saturday, when the 33-year-old local businessman stuck a needle in his arm and shot who knows what into his bloodstream.

Until State Police investigators receive lab results or the Medical Examiner produces an autopsy report, we won't know what substance Jason Lang injected in the final minutes of his life.

"Whoever gave that to Jason, whoever sold that to Jason, murdered him," Rick Lang said. "They plain out murdered him. I want that in the paper. They killed my son."

Rick and Jason both returned to their house in Batavia about 6 p.m., Saturday, Rick said. They grabbed the mail, and each took their portion and Jason said he was going downstairs and would be right back up. Rick said he sorted through his mail, opened a couple of bills, and then a friend stopped by and they chatted for a few minutes, then Rick started cooking supper.

He heard what sounded like the toilet flushing a few times, or the water going off and on, so he called down to Jason, and there was no answer. He went down the stairs a bit, called again, no answer. He went down into the bathroom and Jason was slumped over the bathroom vanity.

"He already looked a little bit, not the right color," Rick said. "I grabbed him and I shook him. He was still warm. I said, 'Jason Jason,' and I tried to wake him. He didn't respond. So I cradled him under his arms and lowered to the floor. I could see it in his eyes. They were blank looking. I said, 'my God, Jason, you're gone.' You know that's what I thought right away, 'you're gone. Buddy, what did you do?' "

Rick stood up and called 9-1-1.

"I see a syringe laying in the sink with the cap more than three-fourths full," Rick said. "It was like maybe a smidgen (used). Even the investigator said, 'My God, he didn't get hardly anything into him.'"

For years, Jason Lang ran a successful cab company in Batavia, Batavia Cab. He thought he was doing pretty good for himself, so he decided to expand his business interests, so he opened a smoke shop and tattoo parlor, the Laughing Buddha, on Ellicott Street.

This was right about the time synthetic marijuana and another class of synthetic drugs, often known as bath salts, were hitting the market. The drugs fell into a legal gray area, where they weren't controlled substances, but might be considered analogs to hard drugs including methamphetamine and cocaine. 

Seeing a business opportunity, Lang started selling the compounds in his shop.

At that time, he said in an interview last August, he had never used hard drugs.

After the State Police raided his store, he said, the store closed down and he lost $200,000 in inventory. He said he became depressed and bath salts, such as Amped, were easy to get at a new store that opened at 400 Ellicott St., the 420 Emporium.

In the spring and summer of 2012, synthetic drugs were a big story in Batavia. There were multiple reports of users engaging in bizarre behavior while high on bath salts. Jason was one of the users making the news, not just in Batavia, but throughout the region. His paranoia led to false reports of gunshots at a local hotel, of confrontations with law enforcement, and tales he told to local reporters of government conspiracies against him.

The mess her son was in drove Nicole Lang and her supporters to stage protests outside the 420 Emporium, which was part of a Rochester chain that was eventually raided and shut down by federal authorities.

Those law enforcement actions seem to have come too late for Jason Lang.

He switched to heroin. 

To support his habit, he started shoplifting. He hit big chain stores. When he reached the point where he had been banned from all the stores in Genesee County, he branched out to Erie County, Orleans County, and Ontario County, in an effort to never get charged with anything more than a petit larceny.

It wasn't long though before he had run out of stores to hit in the neighboring counties, and desperate, he returned to Ontario County.

Rick said local authorities have told him the District Attorney and judges there are particularly tough on petty criminals, that they often sentence people to 90 days in jail for petit larceny.

Jason returned to stores where he was previously banned, stole merchandise, and was charged with felony burglaries. He was sentenced to more than three years in prison.

That's just wrong, Rick said. He pointed to court clerks who stole more than $100,000; attorneys who embezzled more than $75,000; an official in Le Roy who took tens of thousands of dollars from his organization.  

They all got off with probation, what Rick considers a "slap on the wrist."

Yet, Jason, whom Rick said never got away with more than $5,000 aggregate in all his thefts, was given a multiyear prison term.

The justice system, he said, isn't treating drug addiction for what it is, a disease, but it's the users -- not the dealers, he said, not the embezzlers -- who are getting the harshest sentences.

"These people (the embezzlers) are not sick," Rick said. "These people are mentally alert, have no illness and they know exactly what they're doing. You know, it's greed. The justice system is wrong in the way they handle these cases."

While Rick is unhappy with how a local parole officer handled his son's case, contributing, he thinks, to the difficulty of Jason's recovery, he has nothing but praise for the State Police and Sheriff's Office.

Both troopers and deputies have been to the Lang household a couple of times in recent months. The first time, after Jason overdosed on, probably, cocaine, and then again a few weeks ago when he was hallucinating on bath salts.

The troopers and deputies helped save Jason's life those times, and on Saturday, it was a trooper who took over CPR from Rick once he arrived on scene.

"The state troopers, they are very gentleman-like, very professional, and the deputies, too," Rick said. "Very professional."

Rick Lang knows his son was an addict and he struggled with his addiction. Both father and son knew how dangerous that was.

On Father's Day, Jason wrote in his diary, "A great Father's Day. Feeling very blessed. Life has thrown me a lot of curve balls and I've survived through many storms. I recently had another drug overdose. I shouldn't be alive. But somehow I am still here."

Rick doesn't want people to remember his son as the drug addict. He wants Jason to be remembered as a small businessman who cared about his community and cared about people.

"He had a heart of gold," Rick said. "He loved all types of people. He loved law enforcement. He respected law enforcement. He respected people that were down and out and he'd run to help them. Like I said before, when he had Batavia Cab, many times some of his employees were low-income people, didn't have anything, and he'd buy the Christmas gifts and give them to the parents as a gift to each other for Christmas. He was that kind of guy."

In prison, Jason came to the aid of a young black prisoner who was being bullied by a white supremacist gang member. 

"He (the gang member) told him to get on his knees and that's when Jason stepped in and said, 'hey, knock it off,'" Rick said. "'Leave him alone. You know he's scared to death and that he's only a kid.'"

The white supremacist accused Jason of not sufficiently loving his own race, of being an (expletive deleted) lover. Jason said he didn't care about race, but mostly he didn't believe in picking on people and hurting them.

When the prisoners were back in line to head back to their cells, the gang member stabbed Jason in the leg with a pencil, breaking it off in his leg. There was a tussle, and the gang member ended up getting hauled off by the guards.

Jason Lang will receive a Mass of Christian burial at Resurrection Parish, 18 Ellicott St., Batavia, at 9:30 a.m., Friday. Calling Hours are Thursday (full obituary).

His family announced on Facebook today that Grab-A-Cab, the new cab company Jason started after he was released from prison, is being shut down.

Rick is sure Jason didn't want to die. His addiction scared him. He had recently started attending church and was moving toward a deeper spiritual bond with Jesus, Rick said. He said he told Jason if he wanted to save himself from his addiction, he needed to turn to Jesus. He's convinced Jason was headed in that direction. He said that if Jason had known what was in that needle, whatever it was, he never would have shot up knowing it would kill him.

Jason loved his family, Rick said. He loved his son, Lathan. Rick, Jason, and Lathan had been enjoying the spring and summer together fishing.

"He was just a damn good guy," Rick said. "You know, the addiction, that didn't make him a bad guy. He was a very good father. He loved his kid and his kid loved him."

Rick said he was mainly willing to talk about his son's death because he hopes maybe it will save some other parent the heartbreak he's been through. Something has got to be done about the drug epidemic hitting hard both in Genesee County and nationally, he said, but maybe if people know the story of people like Jason, it will help.

It was only near the end of our conversation that Rick Lang started to tear up.

"I hope to get my life back trying to find happiness," Rick said. "It's hard to find happiness when you lose someone that close to your heart. I'm proud of my son. I want to put that in the paper. I'm proud of him. He was one of my best friends. Ever. Now I don't have him. So, I hope. I hope."

Below, a poem Jason Lang wrote about heroin and a copy of his Father's Day diary entry.

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Daniel Jones
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This man didn't find himself a heroin addict via prescription opiods and an abusive doctor. He got there because scumbags provided him with the goods to ruin his life. His father is completely right that the users are bearing the brunt of this problem, in the courts and in real life, instead of those responsible for supplying them with hard drugs that wreak havoc on their lives. If they find the person who sold him the lethal dose, they are responsible for his death, and they should face the same thing. They murdered him. As one who has a more libertarian view on this issue, I have no patience for anyone selling this stuff, you choose how you earn a living and if this is it, may God have mercy on you.

Irene Will
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Very very sad. No matter what the circumstance, the worst thing in the world is for a parent to have to bury a child. Rick and Niki tried HARD to get Jason off drugs for a LONG time - but addiction - especially to bath salts and heroin - nearly impossible to beat. The only blessing in this will be if even only ONE kid hears about Jason's story - and decides NOT to start using drugs.

Jason Crater
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Thoughts and prayers to Jason's family.

Thomas Callan
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What goes around,,, comes around.

Julie A Pappalardo
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Addiction is a horrible horrible HORRIBLE thing. So sad for Jason's parents. Another young life snuffed out from this POISON that is all over the streets! Where is all this heroin coming from?? It seems like it's all I read now. People dying, people being arrested for it. We NEED to find who is bringing it in, and they NEED to be charged with MURDER. I agree with the folks above. We need to stop punishing the addicts and get them some treatment. Locking them in jail doesn't help anyone. The DEALERS need to be in prison, for LONG periods of time! What is it going to take to make that happen. I'm sitting here right now thinking of many of my friends and acquaintances who have lost loved ones to this. Gosh! SO SAD! My thoughts are with the family left behind today :(

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I have mixed feelings about this tragic ordeal...there are no winners here ...I am saddened that this young parents have to go through the rest of their lives thinking how did they fail..well...you didn't...don't blame yourselves...he made choices...you did the best you could...I feel horrible and I hope you find some sort of closure...

Frank Bartholomew
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Thomas CALLOUS, really? I hope there is a room reserved for you in hell for such a rotten,cold hearted comment.

david spaulding
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egad. lots of emotion going on in here. I dam near added to it . carry on

Thomas Callan
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frank, I have no sympathy for junkies-- let this be a lesson to ya!

Frank Bartholomew
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There is no lesson Thomas,only a family who lost a loved one to an out of control epidemic that is destroying young lives and tearing families apart.If you are suggesting that I am a junkie,I got news for ya,I am a recovering alcoholic,and have talked with many young people who have gotten caught up in this,I hope someday a member of your family falls into addiction,then you will get off your high horse,I normally would never wish this on anyone,but you are so deserving.

Kevin Ross
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First and foremost I wish to offer my deepest condolences to Jason's family and friends.
Second I would like to offer some information, to the people who are addicted to drugs. The best thing to do is seek professional help to get clean, relying on emergency services and Narcan to repeatedly save you is very dangerous. First of all Narcan does not work on all drugs, the drugs it is suppose to work on are coming with so many variations and combinations that the Narcan is not effective. Some of the variations can OD you just by getting it on you or inhaling it in the air. If you think you know how much you are taking and it will not be lethal, you are wrong there is no way to know how much is to much. If the Narcan is going to work you have to receive it within a specific amount of time for it to be effective, don't count on that the rescue squad, and/or ambulance is available in a specific area and will be able to get to you in time. If we are on one call and then you call we may not be available at all, (then you have to wait for a rescue squad and/or ambulance from a neighboring department or district.) but if we are available depending on where we are and where you are it could take us to long to get there. So bottom line is don't risk your life, get professional help now.

Thomas Callan
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frank, instead of wishing me a place in hell, why don't you try to find out who sold him the dope? With your experience with alcohol, it shouldn`t be to difficult. You could maybe get some help from the Drug Task Force, they might even let you wear a wire? Common sense dictates not to recklessly point a gun, or jump off the Empire State Building, try to pet a cobra, or stick a needle in your arm!!! Did anyone put a gun to his head? Or maybe a knife to his throat? Nature works in mysterious ways!

Frank Bartholomew
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Thomas,sorry,that would make me better than law enforcement,so dream up another ridiculous idea,I have never known heroin dealers,or whatever,my dealer was called a bartender.I try and do my share Thomas,but it appears ignorant people don't realize the scope of this epidemic.

Thomas Callan
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frank, save the rhetoric for one of those meetings. You act like he won The Congressional Medal of Honor? Get Real!!!

Frank Bartholomew
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Kevin,you make a very important point,a lot of the heroin on the streets is loaded with fentynal,which is extremely powerful,and deadly.Education has got to be the best way to combat this epidemic.Too many young lives are being lost,too many families are being torn apart,it saddens me and angers me at the same time.

Frank Bartholomew
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Thomas,One thing I learnrd at those meetings would help you immensly,take the cotton out of your ears and put it in your mouth,even if it is a bale.

Frank Bartholomew
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Thomas,if your level of ignorence is that high that you think

Frank Bartholomew
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Posted before finished,oh well,if you think I'm just speaking of just this incident,you have really missed the boat.I'm speaking of the families of the addicts,unlike yourself,who insulted them with that nasty,heartless comment.You think hating junkies is going to fix anything,you are a dreamer,or worse.

Thomas Callan
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frank, you need the education! How many times did you drive drunk? What is the difference between a drunk, and an alcoholic? ANSWER: A drunk doesn't have to go to those stupid meetings and listen to frank and his ilk!!! Remember.... Don't drink and drive. And stay away from needles!!

Brian Graz
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Tragic... but here we go again. The family and friends of a drug user who took a gamble and lost, now blaming the supplier... ??? Sorta like the guy who drives his Camaro 120mph and crashes and gets killed, should Chevrolet be held accountable?

Lorie Cook
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I agree with Thomas. People have a choice. What is truly unfortunate are the folks who want help and cannot get help because every rehab is filled with people trying to escape prison or jail time. Also agree with you, Brian, everyone wants to blame someone. I feel sad for jason and his family but he clearly was not stupid. He knew what he was doing. He did what he wanted. If folks were so concerned, did they allow him to stay with him. Did they offer their help to take him to rehab, meetings, etc that could have helped him or are they just blaming anyone but themselves.

Daniel Jones
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Ya know, I was raised in Genesee County, so if anyone from outside the area is reading this, please don't take some of the comments left on this thread as indicative of everyone who lives there. I grew up in a community full of people who were capable of empathy and humanity. I know because I saw it. The people on this thread that are laving nasty comments are just loudmouth, low-life and barely literate chumps who come in and make flash in the pan comments for attention. Please don't take them seriously.

Howard B. Owens
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Frank, Thomas, stop the personal back and forth.

Thomas Callan
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Brian, and Lori, thanks. Howard, thank you for all you do for our Police, Veterans, and First Responders.

Frank Bartholomew
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9 THUMBS DOWN AND COUNTING

Frank Bartholomew
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Howard,you should have deleted #4,it is a cold insensitive comment directed at a grieving family.

Ed Hartgrove
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Frank.

Does one Digitus Medius Up cancel out 9 thumbs down?

Frank Bartholomew
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Ed,I don't think so,the thumb is just way to important.I know that one digit carries a lot of weight as well.if you let that sort of thing bother you,I don't,so it is meaningless to me.

Frank Bartholomew
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Thomas,I already have the education,as I have taken a few college classes dealing with the human being,sociology,psychology,drugs and alcohol: use and abuse.But the best educational tool of all time were found in the rooms of AA,other alcoholics..They have saved so many lives,helped so many families,I can't imagine the mindset that would suggest these are stupid meetings,unless of course the person of said mindset would fit in at a STUPID meeting.

Thomas Callan
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frank,, blah blah blah blah.

Frank Bartholomew
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Your most intelligent comment yet !!!!!

Thomas Callan
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Glad you can relate frank! frank "openbar"tholomew. Remember Boys and Girls, Don't Drink and Drive, and just say NO to heroin. Nighty Nite frank.

Thomas Callan
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I thought there was a Super Duty Investigator around Batavia who always got his man. His name was also Lang. Hmmm?

Ed Hartgrove
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Thomas. Do you mean to say that Batavia has one of those so-called DRE's (Drug Recognition Experts)? I certainly hope he/she is better at it than Cobb County (Georgia) Officer T.T. Carroll.

But, as we know, we are all human. We can all make mistakes. Well, except for Georgia's top-rated DRE, apparently. (Of course, his mistakes didn't cost HIM anything)

Why, even Officer Carroll's department doubled-down on their assertion that the drug recognition expert is better at detecting marijuana in a driver than scientific tests.

Ya just can't beat a human who's "hunches" are better than stinking ol' scientific tests. We all know science is just hocus-pocus. And, don't come crying if the DRE just happens to get it wrong. Just go to the bank, withdraw your life's savings, and, kiss your dollars goodbye!

But, you can always chalk it up as a learning experience. Education is expensive, even the one you never should have had to pay for.

I give you Cobb County Police Officer T.T. Carroll: http://www.11alive.com/news/investigations/the-drug-whisperer/437061710

Frank Bartholomew
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Ed,I believe he is talking about Louie Lang,I believe he was an investigator with the state police,or the sheriffs dept..Long time ago,I'm thinking 70's and 80's.

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