WDRB reports lead to changes in laws for synthetic drugs

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- It is a drug so powerful that it leaves users dazed and confused, in the middle of the day, sometimes even in the middle of the street.

In a special assignment, WDRB learned what's being done to stop the so-called zombies after several previous reports.

It started with disturbing video and images that Louisville Metro Police are seeing day after day on the streets of Louisville.

"We just got flagged down, 332 Broadway on a person down at the TARC stop, hold me out here," said vereran LMPD Officer Amanda Frederick, communicating with 911 dispatcers.

Officer Frederick was responding to a call of a man down on busy East Broadway.

"It looks like he just worked out too much," a witness said. "No, he did not work out too much!" Officer Frederick said.

At the end of the run, she finds a man on all fours and face-down.

"Let him sit down so he doesn't fall and hurt himself," Officer Frederick told witnesses at the scene. "What's going on with ya?"

"He's full of spice." another witness said.

Officer Frederick tried a little Q&A with the man on the ground.

"No drinking? No. No smoking? No. Nothing? No."

He did give a name.

"Hassan Knight! Hassan Knight? Hassan Knight," said the suspected spice user.

But the conversation goes nowhere. That's when Frederick called for help.

"Go ahead and start me an EMS on a black male in his 30s."

The man said he had not used drugs or alcohol, but he is still taken to the hospital.

Officer Frederick has no doubt he has fallen victim to the powerful synthetic drug known as spice or K2.

"I could just tell by his eyes," she said. "He couldn't really open his eyes. They were squinting most of the time, and he was slurring and incoherent. It looked like a spice overdose to me."

"Any day, we are somewhere between 350 per day and a percentage of those are calls such as this," said Lt. Col. Chad Scott with Louisville Metro EMS.

"A lot of them come right here to the University of Louisville."

Lt. Col. Scott explained what happens to spice users once they're in the ambulance.

"We'll provide 'em with oxygen," Scott said. "We'll start IVs to help support them in case we need to give medication if they do have seizures related to the use of spice."

Spice is a man-made drug, laced with different chemicals. It is illegally sold in places like gas stations and smoke shops under different names. Health experts say it is not meant for human consumption.

"It is so unpredictable, because there are so many different variations of chemicals out there that they put on this plant material and it causes just unpredictable reaction," Scott said.

WDRB News has highlighted that unpredictable reaction in several special reports, and it has gotten the attention of Metro Council and lawmakers in Frankfort.

"We took action because some members from the Louisville Metro Police Department had come to us with the problem," said Democratic Metro Councilman David James.

With the problem so disturbing, Metro Council is now targeting businesses that that sell spice.

"We recently passed an ordinance that allows the Louisville Police Department to seize properties that are repeatedly selling spice and caught for selling spice and arrested by the police officers for doing so," James said.

"It's really serious," said Kentucky State Rep. Joni Jenkins (D).

Rep. Jenkins said it's serious enough that lawmakers recently voted to put more teeth into House Bill 4, which prohibits trafficking in or possession of synthetic drugs.

"It moved it from a class B misdemeanor for possession the first time to a class A, which is punishable up to one year in jail," Jenkins said.

The images are powerful and disturbing, which is why the new law takes effect immediately.

"This was signed into law on the 28th," Jenkins said. "It had an emergency clause so it is the law of Kentucky right now."

"We pulled him out of the car, and he literally rolled from his car all the way across the parking lot, just rolling on his side, it was the strangest thing," Officer Frederick said.

Officer Frederick has dozens of spice stories, but she hopes the new law will slow things down before things get worse or someone dies.

"You can get misdemeanor after misdemeanor, and unfortunately, there's not a whole lot of consequences to that," she said.

Here's part of her conversation with another suspected spice user on her last run of a long day.

"You were just laying out here."

"I was resting, I've been working all day."

"You been smoking some spice today?


"What's that right there?"

Frederick is a seasoned officer and knows what to look for and what to ask. She eventually got the man to hand over his spice.

"That's strawberry spice. What's that you're holding in your hand?"

Officer Frederick determined the man was coming down off a spice high.

The suspected user was reluctant, but eventually explained why the drug turns some people into "zombies."

"He said these people that we see that are laid out don't know how to use this. They'll smoke the whole thing. And he said, you can really only take a couple of hits off of it, and then you gotta put it out."

Officer Frederick has put in a 10-hour day, but spends some personal time making sure the spice user gets medical treatment for both the spice addiction and injuries and stab wounds on his stomach and chest.

Lawmakers have also increased the penalty for selling to a minor. It now carries a penalty of 10 to 20 years in prison.


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