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Two Arrests Made After Two Dozen People Overdose Near Wheeler Mission

25 people overdosed on synthetic pot laced with PCP in a 24 hour span around the Wheeler Mission in Indianapolis

INDIANAPOLIS -- Two people have been arrested in connection with at least 25 overdoses reported in a 24-hour period around the Wheeler Mission in downtown Indianapolis.

Since Wednesday, the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department and Indianapolis Emergency Medical Services have responded to multiple overdoses involving dozens of people from the area surrounding the 500 block of E. Market Street. 

"Credit really goes to IEMS," IMPD Captain John Mann said. "This city has phenomenal response when it comes to our paramedics and EMS workers out there. Who knows what this would've looked like if we wouldn't have had the response that we did?"

IEMS said they have transported people from the area nearby the Wheeler Men's Mission homeless shelter. Steve Kerr, chief development officer for Wheeler Mission, said at least 17 of those overdoses were registered residents of the Wheeler Mission and that eight of them occurred inside the shelter.

“Guys would most likely go into the bathroom and ingest or snort the bath salts and within minutes there was an obvious reaction to the drugs: vomiting, convulsions, just very, very erratic behavior,” Kerr said. “So it was an obvious overdose that occurred almost immediately.”

Kerr said Wheeler guests go through “airport-style security,” including being wanded, but that isn’t always enough to prevent unwanted substances from getting in.

“If it’s not a metallic carrying case or whatever, we can’t detect it,” he said. “So it was probably brought into our facility in their clothing and then either sold or given out freely to the other guests.”

Thanks to tips from other Wheeler residents, police were able to make two arrests in the case, and also to seize packages of a substance known as “flakka” – a synthetic drug akin to bath salts – along with two firearms. Police said substance may have also had other substances, specifically PCP, mixed in.

The two suspects, Melvin Cannon, 59, and Nathaniel Davis, 63, are charged with Dealing marijuana, Maintaining a common nuisance, Possession/cultivation of marijuana, and Possession of a controlled substance

While most of the overdose victims either refused treatment or were quickly released from the hospital, Kerr said at least one had to be placed on life support.

Overdoses aren’t unusual at Wheeler, Kerr says, but they’ve never happened before on this scale.

“One or two a week, which is still alarming,” he said. “And our staff is trained in how to administer Narcan. But this is a first for us. This volume of overdoses has really taken us aback and taken us by surprise.”


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