Police in Melbourne, Florida, are saying they believe the use of a powerful new street drug might have been at play in a bizarre attack on an officer in the Brevard County city last week.
WKMG News reports 41-year-old Kenneth Crowder was arrested Friday by Melbourne police and is now facing charges of battery on a law enforcement officer, resisting with violence, and assault with a deadly weapon on a law enforcement officer.
Police suspect Crowder was high on a drug called “flakka,” which is a variation of the powerful synthetic drug known as “bath salts.”
Bath salts was described in an ABC News story as a “synthetic cocaine substitute.” The drug was blamed in the now-infamous Miami cannibal attack that made headlines in 2012. That incident culminated in the death of Randy Eugene, who was fatally shot by police after he was found gnawing off the face of Ronald Poppo, a homeless man.
Flakka, officials believe, is just as dangerous as bath salts and can lead to the same extreme and violent behavior. It has also been described as resembling a cross between crack cocaine and meth.
According to a police report of Friday’s incident, acquired by WKMG, a single officer was called to a Melbourne neighborhood after residents reported seeing a man running naked through the area, declaring himself to be a god and committing a sexual act on a tree.
The report indicates the officer approached Crowder who was wearing jeans and a T-shirt. Crowder reportedly identified himself as God then approached the officer in an aggressive manner.
The officer then used a Taser on Crowder, who pulled the probes from his body and assaulted the officer while calling himself “Thor,” according to the report.
Other officers arrived on the scene and broke up the fight. They eventually shackled and handcuffed Crowder and booked him into the Brevard County jail.
Melbourne Police Department spokesman Cmdr. Dan Lynch said the officer, who was never named, had only a few superficial injuries.
"The officer is doing fine,” Lynch said, according to Florida Today. “The suspect tried to stab (the officer) with his own badge. He somehow pulled it off of his uniform.”
Lynch said department officials are now concerned that flakka use is on the rise in the area.
“We have spoken to some medical professionals here and they are starting to see an increase in its use here," he said. "It's already in South Florida and we think it's coming here.”
Many of the chemicals used in the manufacturing of bath salts have been banned by federal authorities for a number of years, but the active ingredient in flakka has not yet been banned, according to Florida Today.
WKMG reports Crowder posted bond and was released.