City officials in New Haven are trying to get a handle on a synthetic drug epidemic during which more than 100 overdose cases spanned 36 hours.
Three people have been arrested, including the possible supplier.
On Friday afternoon, New Haven police identified two of those arrested as 37-year-old Felix Melendez and 53-year-old John Parker.
"Parker was identified as one of the dealers of the K2 on the green in this particular incident," said New Haven Police Chief Anthony Campbell.
Police said Melendez and Parker were charged with possession of controlled substances and the sale of hallucinogens, both with the intent to sell and distribute.
Most of the overdose cases happened in the area of the New Haven Green on Wednesday.
Parker and Melendez have been identified by victims and witnessed in the overdose case. Both have also been directly linked to the sale and distribution of K2.
Police blamed K2, a synthetic drug that induces marijuana-like effects and can be laced with dangerous substances.
New Haven Police Chief Anthony Campbell said in this case, the drug was laced with fubinaca.
Police had an active arrest warrant for Parker for allegedly selling the same drug around the green in February.
When police tracked him down at a New Haven hotel, officers recovered more than 30 bags of K2.
As for Melendez, police have not charged him in the green incident just yet, but they say he too was also arrested for selling K2 on the green, back in February.
According to court documents, after the overdoses this week, a preliminary investigation revealed Melendez was distributing it.
Police said they found 30 bags of K2 at a home of a friend he was staying at.
"It is our hope and our prayer that we have come to the end of this crisis, where things are at least leveling off. We'll continue to have a strong police presence downtown to make sure anyone who would think about filling the gap, that has been opened by the arrests of these three offenders, would be deterred," said Campbell.
Sen. Richard Blumenthal met with Mayor Toni Harp and Campbell on the Green Friday morning.
They discussed public safety and resources.
They also revealed that the number of overdoses was 114, some of whom were patients who needed to be treated multiple times.
Officials said what happened over the past week was something with which the city has never dealt.
Medics had to treat patients, some as many as three times, police said.
Officials said the victims ranged in age and demographics. They experienced symptoms of dehydration, nausea, vomiting, hallucinations and unconsciousness.
Police have been tight-lipped on the investigation, but said they were part of a federal search warrant on Thursday.
”It is our hope and our prayer that we have come to the end of this crisis, where things are at least leveling off," Campbell said. "We’ll continue to have a strong police presence downtown to make sure anyone who would think about filling the gap, that has been opened up by the arrests of these three offenders, would be deterred.”
Rep. Rosa DeLauro, the lead Democrat on an Appropriations subcommittee that funds the Department of Public Health and Human Services, provided a statement on Friday.
“The overdose crisis on the Green is heartbreaking, and I echo the recent sentiments of Fire Chief John Alston that we must deal this situation in the context of the national drug crisis," DeLauro said. "Just last month, the Food and Drug Administration rightly warned people to remain vigilant regarding the dangers of contaminated K2, but that is clearly not enough. We must do more. I look forward to working with our local leaders to identify federal resources that would best address the ongoing crisis here in New Haven and tackle the scourge of drug addiction in our communities.”
No deaths were reported; however, police said six people came close.
The addiction has many in the city worried.
"You can tell them 'no don't do it,' give them all the advice in the world, 'don't take it,' but at the end of the day that's their choice," said Demetrius Hyman of New Haven.
Police said they will continue to monitor the area until the situation is resolved.
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