Wheeler Mission says men arrested after rash of overdoses were not staying at shelter

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind.-- Two men are behind bars, accused of helping put a dangerous drug into the hands of the homeless. Now police and a downtown homeless shelter are working to learn more about how dozens of homeless people overdosed on it at the shelter and the area nearby.

IMPD said they arrested Melvin Cannon, 59, and Nathaniel Davis, 63, in connection to the case Wednesday night. A spokesperson for Wheeler Mission Ministries said they've determined neither man was staying at the shelter. In fact, the spokesperson said Cannon has never been a guest and Davis has not been a guest for years.

"A lot of our guests will receive social security or disability checks the first or the last of the month so these guys knew there was money to be made and they were here preying on a lot of our guests," Steve Kerr, the chief development officer for Wheeler Mission, said.

Kerr said they believe men got a hold of the drug outside the shelter and brought it in through clothing. Witnesses said all of the sudden men started acting abnormal, everything from convulsing to one man trying to bite another person's neck.

Initially police thought the drug might be flakka, a street name for spice, that was possibly mixed with other illicit drugs, like PCP. Investigators said Friday they are still working to determine what exactly the drug is, though.

"We want the community to understand that this was bad. People were going about their day to day business with no idea the dire straights that our citizens were in," IMPD Sgt. Christopher Wilburn said.

The shelter said safety is its top priority. It's staffed 24 hours a day. Each guest must register, check in and then go through a metal detector. They are lightly patted down and their bags are briefly inspected before they are welcomed into the facility.

"We have determined that we need to have a better guest to staff ratio and have more eyes and ears, especially in the evening hours," Kerr said.

Kerr said they've since elevated part time staff members to full time positions. They are also focused on trying to help those who overdosed, though many have not come back to the shelter since. Kerr said those arrested are not welcome back to the shelter right now, though they would still work to get them help.

"The majority of the homeless that we serve our innocent victims," Kerr said.

The shelter said it has a zero tolerance police for alcohol and drugs.

Police said the case remains active and open. If you have any information, you're asked to call police or Crimestoppers at 317-262-TIPS.

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