Two men have been charged in connection with the investigation into more than 100 suspected K2 overdoses in the New Haven area last week.
The suspects, 53-year-old John Parker and 37-year-old Felix Melendez, were taken into custody on unrelated charges last week during the investigation into the string of overdoses in the city. Police said both men were identified by victims and witnesses as linked to the sale or distribution of the drugs.
Both Parker and Melendez were charged with possession of controlled substances and the sale of hallucinogens with the intent to sell/distribute.
Both men have been previously arrested for selling drugs on the Green, police said.
A third man, 47-year-old Quentin Staggers, was arrested by federal authorities in connection with the case, according to a spokesperson for the United States Attorney for the District of Connecticut. The affidavit is currently sealed.
Emergency responders in New Haven responded to a string of suspected K2 overdoses starting last Tuesday and continuing through Thursday. Police said a total of 47 people were transported to the hospital, some multiple times due to multiple overdoses. In total, there were 108 transports.
Many of the people became ill while they were on the New Haven Green, which is located near Yale University. There were no fatalities, but authorities warned that the drug can be fatal and for people to stay away from it.
The K2 involved in this case was contaminated with another synthetic drug called fubinaca,
One form of fubinaca is an "ultrapotent" synthetic cannabinoid known to be 50 to 85 times more powerful than K2 and "poses a public health concern," according to a 2017 article in the New England Journal of Medicine that found the drug was involved in a 2016 outbreak in Brooklyn, New York, that resulted in dozens of hospitalizations and left the area looking like a "zombieland."
Last year, the Drug Enforcement Administration temporarily classified fubinaca as a Schedule I drug, the same category as heroin, a move the federal agency said was “necessary to avoid an imminent hazard to the public safety.”
Officials said fubinaca was found in nearly all the K2 samples New Haven police recovered. The DEA helped the city discover what was in the co-called bad batch.
“Thanks to the DEA for doing the testing and thanks to victims who were courageous enough to come forward and make identification we’ve been able to tie both of them definitively to the distribution and sale of the K2 that was happening on the Green,” said New Haven Police Chief Anthony Campbell.
The overdose emergency was followed by a visit from Jim Carroll, the nominee for federal drug czar and current Deputy Director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, who discussed the response and ways to combat the ongoing addiction and substance abuse epidemic in the country with state and local officials.