AUSTIN - Austin police announced the arrest of 24 suspected K2 dealers as part of a months-long investigation.
The string of arrests follows a city-wide outbreak in August, in which Austin-Travis County EMS responded to over 100 calls in a span of a week, including more than 70 calls in a two-day span.
Austin Police Department Lt. Kurt Thomas said they believe many of the suspected K2 dealers have ties to 56-year old Charles Herd and 41-year old Juanita Price. Herd and Price were arrested last month on charged of delivery of a controlled substance. The US Attorney General's Office has accepted the case against Herd and Price.
"There are federal drug crimes, and there are state drug crimes. K2 is illegal on the federal books as well as it is on the state. Due to significant amounts related to that specific case, the US attorney;'s office has agreed to accept the case for prosecution under federal law," explained Lt. Thomas.
Police recovered approximately 4,000 grams of K2 from Herd and Price during their investigation.
Lt. Thomas admitted police were overwhelmed by the high-volume of calls and cases they faced related to the drug.
"It's not only taxing on the officers who have to respond from our department, but it's very taxing on the emergency medical services that have to come. It's taxing on our emergency medical rooms and their ability to staff and address these issues with the significant number of patients coming into the hospital," explained Lt. Thomas.
After initial difficulties in cracking down, Lt. Thomas said they have made gains in fighting back against the spread of K2 in the city.
"We were having difficulty on our side of the house prosecuting because we had to look at the law and we had issues with our ability to test the substances proficiently. And we're starting to overcome those hurdles at this time," said Lt. Thomas.
Police are still seeking 18 K2 dealers throughout the Austin-area.
"When it starts affecting the community where you have people fall out all over the place, and the impact that has on our resources, then we're going to deal with it. And we're going to deal with it as swiftly as we can, and hold as many people responsible that are engaging in the conduct as we can," said Lt. Thomas.
Authorities believe the bulk of the K2 obtained by Herd and Price originated from Houston. They said they are working with both local and federal authorities in the Houston-area as part of their ongoing investigation.
(© 2016 KVUE)