NYPD investigating K2 poisoning in northern Brooklyn

The number of emergency room visits related to what police described as a “particularly toxic batch” of K2 in northern Brooklyn has risen to at least 84, according to the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

The NYPD warned Brooklyn residents earlier in the week about the drug, which is commonly known as spice or synthetic marijuana, after more than 50 overdoses had been reported across five locations in the borough between Friday and Monday. 

“K2 in and of itself is very dangerous but what we’re seeing over the last couple of days with 56 confirmed overdoses, there is a very dangerous batch circulating right now in Brooklyn,” NYPD Chief of Department Terence Monahan said at a news conference on Tuesday.

K2, which is illegal to sell and possess in New York City, can cause users to hallucinate, vomit and pass out, according to the health department. In rare cases, it can be deadly. 

NYPD officers investigate Big Boy Deli in connection with victims at Broadway and Myrtle Avenue believed to be sickened after smoking K2 on Saturday.
NYPD officers investigate Big Boy Deli in connection with victims at Broadway and Myrtle Avenue believed to be sickened after smoking K2 on Saturday. Photo Credit: Jeff Bachner

Police have made at least 12 arrests in connection with the K2 investigation, an NYPD spokesman said. At least eight people arrested were being charged with the sale and/or possession of K2, according to Chief of Detectives Dermot Shea. Others are facing charges such as possession and/or sale of unstamped cigarettes and failure to report sales tax.

Three of the arrests happened Saturday at addresses that correspond to a pair of bodegas, Big Boy Deli and the Star Deli & Grill, at the intersection of Broadway and Myrtle Avenue in Bedford-Stuyvesant, where 15 people were sickened by the drug, police said.

The overdoses come about two years after 33 people suffered from apparent K2 overdoses in the same area.

While police investigated the Big Boy Deli, they didn’t find any K2, Monahan said, but did seize about 2,000 packs of untaxed cigarettes.

Other overdoses were spread out in nearby neighborhoods, including three homeless shelters: 21 were sickened at 2570 Fulton St., near Alabama Avenue; seven at 599 Ralph Ave., near Lincoln Place; two at 2399 Van Sinderen Ave., between Blake and Dumont avenues; and four at 2402 Atlantic Ave., near Sackman Street.

The health department said the additional 28 overdoses also were located in the Bushwick-Williamsburg area, but did not provide specific addresses.

Monahan said the NYPD has reached out to the entire shelter system.

“Even though it is concentrated currently in Brooklyn, we want to make sure this doesn’t extend to other parts of the city,” Monahan said. “Currently we want to identify where the source is coming from. We’ve made the arrests in the areas, we’re debriefing individuals and we want to identify the source and work on the major cases.”

Health officials said the latest string of overdoses in Brooklyn is the largest number recorded over a three-day period in the city since July 2016. Before Monday, there were a total of 600 K2-related emergency room visits so far in 2018, per the health department.

“We took down a major case back in 2016, which kind of curtailed a lot of the K2 in the city,” Monahan said. “There seems to be something of an uprising right now.”

Brooklyn Councilman Robert Cornegy Jr., who represents Bed-Stuy, has called on the NYPD and the city to escalate efforts to prevent the sale and use of K2.

“Some of the local shop owners are now using what’s called runners. So, not selling it absolutely out of the store, but having people who are working outside of the store who are loosely associated with the stores doing their business for them,” he said at a news conference Sunday.

But the councilman warned that completely shutting down stores in the area could accelerate gentrification.

Police did not identify those who have been hospitalized or provide further information about their conditions.

With Shaye Weaver