In a Friday press conference held at the New Haven City Hall, Chief of New Haven Police Anthony Campbell ’95 DIV ’09 named the suspects arrested in relation to the K2 distributions that caused over 100 people to overdose since Tuesday. Campbell was joined at the press conference by Mayor Toni Harp, Assistant Chief of Police Herb Johnson, among others.
Following Tuesday’s overdoses — which ended with no fatality — two suspects have been arrested by the New Haven Police Department while a third suspect is detained by federal law enforcement. All three are dealers known to the New Haven Police, two of whom have been arrested by the NHPD on drug-related charges in the past.
Though some of Tuesday’s victims responded to Narcan, which is used to resuscitate opioid overdose patients, no opioid like fentanyl was found in the seized samples tested by the Drug Enforcement Agency, Campbell said. Tuesday’s batch of K2, however, tested positive for Fubinaca, a synthetic cannabinoid that is 50 to 85 times more potent than K2.
Campbell added that the origin of the K2 distributed on Tuesday is unclear at this time.
John Parker, a New Haven resident, was identified as one of the dealers who distributed contaminated K2, a synthetic form of marijuana, around the Green on Tuesday. According to the NHPD, 32 bags of K2 were found in Parker’s possession, and more may still be in circulation.
Felix Melendez, who was arrested for charges unrelated to distribution, was in possession of K2 and other controlled substances at the time of his arrest. Police are still investigating Melendez’s role in Tuesday’s overdoses, though he was previously arrested in February for K2 distribution on the Green.
A third suspect has been arrested by federal authorities. Campbell said he could not release the individual’s identity given his status as a state official.
“This investigation is continuing, and we will continue to work with our federal and state partners to make sure that the citizens of this great city are safe from harm and are not subject to being preyed upon by drug dealers who take advantage of their substance abuse issues to cause an additional health crisis,” Campbell said.
Paul Genecin, director of Yale Health, notified the student body of the overdoses and warned of the dangers of synthetic cannabinoids in an email sent on Friday. As of now, Campbell said the distribution was localized to the Green and that there is no risk to Yale students.
“[The distribution] was relegated to targeted populations — drug abusers, particularly the most vulnerable in that population — those who are suffering from serious substance abuse issues,” Campbell said.
This is not the first time the Elm City witnessed clusters of K2 overdoses. Five people overdosed on the synthetic drug in January, and another nine in February. Only one of these cases was fatal.
Since the January and February clusters of overdoses, New Haven police have performed undercover drug operations around the Green to snuff out K2 distribution. After Tuesday’s overdose cases, the NHPD hopes to now identify a higher-level supplier though investigations are still ongoing.
Ward 1 Alder Hacibey Catalbasoglu ’19, whose district encompasses the New Haven Green, said he has worked to legalize marijuana in response to the K2 overdoses in the past year.
“People on the Green don’t have access to regulated, safe marijuana. Synthetic, in other words, fake, marijuana can be sold and be laced with very harmful things like fentanyl,” Catalbasoglu said. “Had marijuana been legal, people would have gone to dispensaries and gotten safe, regulated marijuana … that would not have caused nearly 100 people to overdose.”
Marisa Peryer | firstname.lastname@example.org