K2 banned from bodegas, but it gets into city jails, causing inmate hallucinations

BROOKLYN — When an ambulance was called to the Brooklyn Detention Complex on Saturday, Aug. 17, it picked up an infamous inmate who was suffering from hallucinations.

The patient transported to The Brooklyn Hospital was 19-year-old Manuel Rivera, one of five men convicted in the 2018 fatal gang attack on Lesandro “Junior” Guzman-Feliz in the Bronx.

Manuel Rivera, of the Bronx, NY, was convicted of killing Lesandro "Junior" Guzman-Feliz in 2018. (Passaic County Prosecutor)

PIX11 learned from law enforcement sources that Rivera had smoked a “bad batch of K2.”

K2 is one of many names given to synthetic cannabinoid products—fake, marijuana-like material that’s sprayed with chemicals shipped from China. It can cause convulsions and seizures in users, sometimes leading to brain damage and death.

“We do have a good number of inmates that do go out to the hospitals due to the K2,” one NYC correction officer told PIX11. He asked to remain unidentified.

But Elias Husamudeen—president of COBA, the Correction Officers Benevolent Association—went on the record.

“We have arrested so far this year more than 40 visitors bringing in K2,” Husamudeen said. “They swallow it, put it in their vagina; they put it in their anus."

The union president cited the Brooklyn Detention Complex as an especially problematic site.

NYC Department of Correction Deputy Commissioner for Public Information Peter Thorne said "We take stopping contraband from entering our facilities seriously, and implement a multi-pronged approach involving intelligence, K-9 units and new body scanners to stop the flow of drugs, weapons and other illegal items.”

Husamudeen noted K2 has spawned a national problem in various jail systems.

In 2018, the Miami Herald featured a video clip of an inmate writhing on a prison floor after using K2.

K2 was behind a spike in Florida prison deaths in recent years.

It also caused trouble in Pennsylvania in 2018. All 25 state prisons were put on lockdown in August and early September that year.

Correction officials suspected 50 prison officers got sick due to contact with inmates using K2 or Suboxone, a medicine used in the treatment of opioid addiction. They believed inmates were getting mail dipped in liquid K2 or Suboxone.

Pennsylvania ultimately dealt with the problem by having mail sorted in Florida and then sent on digital discs to prisoners.

Ray Donovan, special agent in charge of the New York division of the Drug Enforcement Administration, told PIX11’s Jennifer Bisram inmates won’t be getting a mellow buzz from K2.

“It’s actually quite the opposite,” Donovan said. “People experience paranoia, seizures, hallucinations.”

PIX11 reached out Correctional Health Services for comment.

We were waiting for a response Monday evening.

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