Make your home page

Downtown Indianapolis block tallies 27 overdoses over 24 hours

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Indianapolis emergency medical crews said Thursday afternoon that they responded to at least 27 overdoses over 24 hours in a commercial and residential area of the downtown.

Police said they believe a type of spice is to blame. After a search for the distributor of the spice that led to the overdoses, police said, they arrested a person of interest.

On Friday afternoon, IMPD announced that two men, Melvin Cannon and Nathaniel Davis, had been arrested in the case.

The 500 block of East Market Street is defined as a high-volume area for Indianapolis EMS, but it said this tally was a significant uptick. A total of 23 of the calls came before Thursday morning, Indianapolis EMS said.

At least 17 of those overdoses happened inside or near the Wheeler Mission Shelter for Men. A source at Wheeler Mission Shelter, 520 E. Market St., said they believe the overdoses were possibly caused by flakka laced with the hallucinogenic drug PCP, also known as phencyclidine or angel dust. Flakka has been known to cause bizarre behavior, agitation, paranoia and delusions of superhuman strength.

Wheeler mission said at least 17 of the overdoses were people who had been staying at the shelter. They started around 8:50 p.m. Tuesday. Seven of those overdoses were inside the Wheeler Mission Ministries homeless shelter; the others occurred just outside the shelter.

Leaders at Wheeler Mission say they typically see about one or two overdoses per week, and this dramatic uptick was unlike anything they’ve experienced before.

“One guy, he ran into a wall. One guy started shouting. One guy tried to bite another guy in the neck. One guy just started throwing up and convulsing. One guy just fell out. He had no clue where he was,” said William Bumphus, the director of the Wheeler Mission Shelter for Men.

He told 24-Hour News 8 that when those reactions started, he wasn’t sure what was going on.

“Is there something going on in the air? Is someone trying to poison us?” he said.

After reviewing security video, he says they realized a group of six or seven men went into the restroom and consumed the drug mixture. The reactions began right after that. People staying at the shelter described a large police presence as authorities tried to track down the source of the drug.

“We don’t do a a full cavity search and stuff like that once they come in, so it is very easy to get it inside of here,” said Bumphus.

The overdoses continued Wednesday and Thursday.

“It is a tragic thing to have to deal with that. My number one priority and our number one priority here at Wheeler Mission is to protect everyone who comes through those doors, so of course with 15, 17, 27 guys passing out from some drug, we definitely feel like there is more that we need to do,” said Bumphus.

In response to these overdoses, Wheeler Mission has moved six of their staff members from part time to full time.

A release from the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department said officers were called to the homeless shelter on Tuesday on reports of unconscious people who were catatonic with delayed responses. Investigators said they learned the overdoses involved flakka possibly laced with other illegal substances. IMPD said in a news release that from 21 to 25 homeless people experienced medical issues consistent with the consumption of flakka. A later tweet from IMPD said the number of homeless people who overdosed was more than 24. That tweet contained a photo of apparent evidence collected by police.