TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — More questions were raised Friday after hidden camera footage purported to show a man injecting liquid into his upstairs neighbor’s condominium.
“We were so shocked,” said Umar Abdullah. “We all were like shaking.”
When Umar Abdullah smelled chemicals in his condo and his baby daughter started vomiting, he knew he had to do something.
“My daughter developed a weird cough,” Abdullah recalled. “She started coughing ten, 12, 15 times at one go. And subsequently, she used to vomit.”
So he placed a camera outside his home — a camera that caught his neighbor, Xuming Li, using a syringe to inject something into their home.
Li was later arrested and charged with multiple felonies. Abdullah said Li had been complaining for months that his neighbors were making too much noise upstairs, especially with a newborn baby.
“It was terrible,” Abdullah said. “I used to get a severe headache, worse than a migraine when this happened.”
Investigators believe the liquid was a combination of dangerous drugs, including methadone and hydrocodone, both potentially deadly opioid pain medications and Schedule II controlled substances.
The Tampa Police Department affidavit also says an officer was exposed to the liquid and had some skin irritation as a result.
Now, some are wondering how Li obtained the drugs in the first place.
According to a complaint filed by Li’s condo association, Li used a laboratory on the University of South Florida’s campus to mix and load liquid into syringes on multiple occasions.
But in a statement to 8 On Your Side, USF said its chemistry labs don’t have Schedule II controlled substances, including hydrocodone and methadone.
USF did confirm to 8 On Your Side on Thursday that Li was enrolled as a Ph.D. candidate at the university, but a spokesperson said he is no longer a student, his last semester being Summer 2023.
USF also said in a statement it has several safeguards in place to ensure all chemicals and other materials owned by the university for teaching and research purposes are accounted for and used properly.
“Hydrocodone and methadone are both federally controlled substances,” explained Benjamin Chemel. “Which require a prescription and are subject to a number of regulations.”
Chemel is a visiting assistant professor of chemistry at Eckerd College.
“If they are not kept under lock and key and accounted for,” Chemel said. “That is in violation of both federal and state laws.”
He said opioids must be carefully monitored.
“It’s primarily a safety concern,” Chemel said. “Because of not only the risk of addiction, but also causing acute harm.”
Chemel also added that it might not just be the two opioids in the syringe. He explained that opioids usually take a pill form, and would have to be dissolved by something like water.
But, he said, the symptoms experienced by the family could indicate the opioids were dissolved in something like chloroform, and then injected.
“I think that that compound is a potentially better explanation as for what was responsible for the odor,” Chemel said. “As well as what may have been responsible for the effects experienced by the entire family.”
Li’s attorney told 8 On Your Side on Thursday that Li pled not guilty, is presumed innocent and claims all the facts will come out in court.