Spice suspected behind mass overdoses in downtown Los Angeles

A total of 32 people from Skid Row have been transported to hospitals this week

By Erica Evans
Los Angeles Times

LOS ANGELES — Three days after 18 people were rushed to hospitals from downtown's Skid Row, the Los Angeles Fire Department responded to another multi-patient medical emergency there on Monday.

The patients may have shared an illicit drug or other intoxicant, said Margaret Stewart of the Los Angeles Fire Department, but the source of the illnesses has not yet been identified.

The Fire Department received a 911 call at 10:21 a.m. that led them to 429 E 5th St., where they found multiple people suffering from a variety of symptoms. Police blocked off San Pedro Street between 4th and 5th streets and canvassed the area for additional patients. By noon, a total of 18 people had been assessed and 14 were transported to hospitals.

Officer Aareon Jefferson of the Los Angeles Police Department said that several subjects told police that they ingested spice, a synthetic form of marijuana which is typically sprayed on cigarettes and smoked.

"We're not doctors so we can't confirm," Jefferson said. "That would be up to the hospital to determine what they ingested."

Side effects of spice can include rapid heartbeat, nausea and seizures. On Friday, a similar multi-patient incident led paramedics to cordon off an area near 5th and Wall streets, but authorities have not indicated that the cases were related.

"The LAFD can not confirm any connection to previous medical incidents near this location," the department said in a press statement.

Jefferson said that police are not investigating Monday's incident or the incident from Friday.

"Until we can confirm it was a paraphernalia drug, there is no crime," he said. "If there's no crime, we don't investigate it."

This is not the first time spice on Skid Row has led to mass hospitalizations. In April, 15 people were hospitalized after consuming a tainted batch of the synthetic drug. Officials said most victims collapsed on sidewalks, but none died.

Copyright 2016 Los Angeles Times

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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