Walking Dallas, Part 3: K2, Drugs and Death

Walking Dallas is a 5 part, multistory series detailing a four hour time span in Dallas

Part 1: Glass, Steel and Stone
Part 2: Divisions
Part 3: K2, Drugs and Death
Part 4: Monochrome
Part 5: B-Side

The DART train slowly makes its way into downtown Dallas. Three minutes into a six minute ride, a young man leans over to me from across the middle aisle.
“Hey, ‘scuse me.”
I look at him over my sunglasses.
“You got a hundred dollars?”
I can’t help but laugh at loud. This makes the young man smile as well, revealing his gold grill over his teeth for the first time.
“No, I don’t have a hundred dollars.”
“It’s alright,” he replies. Then without missing a beat, “You smoke?”
“Cigarettes or weed?” I ask. In truth I’ve never smoked either one.
“Anything!” he quickly snaps back, smiling and laughing again.



I’ll be honest, a police presence interests me. I found myself in quite a few situations in Montreal, most memorably here and here. I’m not a photojournalist by trade, but I like to be in the position to get the right shot at the right time. I wandered back to the area around the West End Station in Dallas and spoke to a few of the police officers there as well as some of the Downtown Safety Patrol. The DSP, noticeable because of the bright yellow jackets they wear, is not an actual police force, but they informed me they were trained by the police and have the ability to radio in to the police if a situation arises. As it turns out, the area around Rosa Parks Plaza, and the West End Station in particular, is a hotbed of drug activity centered around a new type of synthetic weed called K2. 

K2 is not new to this area. It first arrived here in 2011 but fizzled out quickly. Since December 2015, however, K2 has made an enormous comeback in downtown Dallas. As it turns out, K2 runs as low as $1 to $2 per joint. $50 - $100 can buy you hundreds of joints of varying recipes and potencies. I thought back to my interaction on the DART earlier in the morning and wondered if that was the direction my conversation with the young man was headed.

But it’s the recipes for K2 that are the root of the real drug problem. K2 is essentially a chemically constructed replacement for weed, and it’s those chemicals that get changed from time to time in order to skirt around the law. The truth is that these chemically laced joints are highly toxic and deadly, but the fix is apparently worth the danger to someone who is down on their luck and may or may not know about the consequences that exist. There have been at least 200 confirmed K2-induced emergency calls in downtown Dallas since December 2015. Reactions that someone on the drug experiences reportedly range from appearing to be “zombie-like” and staring at the ground to wandering into traffic. There have even been reports of people attempting to fight bushes and birds while high on K2. One particular version of K2 called “Brain Freeze” has turned out to be particularly lethal.

The Blue line from Rowlett arrives at the West End Station. An enormous wave of people depart the train, and a girl with faded red hair and tattered clothing catches my eye. She darts quickly left, then back to the right towards me. She flicks her eyes rapidly, catching mine for only an instant before scanning past me.

“Where do we go?” asks an older woman next to her.
“I don’t fuckin’ know,” the girl replies. “Follow these people I guess.”
The majority of the crowd are all headed to Rosa Parks Plaza. Perhaps to catch the bus, or perhaps to visit the restaurant that I know the police are watching at that very moment.



K2 has the police working overtime as of late. Dealing K2 is now a felony charge, and multiple arrests have already been made to drive home the point. A recent carjacking near downtown recently had the public up in arms, and the Dallas police have started a new initiative to curb the amount of homeless and panhandling on the streets. The attack may not have had anything to do with K2, but the police are converging in on the downtown safety situation nonetheless. 

They want K2 out before it becomes the next crack cocaine, which many have already likened it to. K2 is a quick, cheap fix, but the police and fire department are trying to inform potential users that it can very well kill them as well. 911 emergency calls for drug-related issues have spiked recently, and it’s gotten to the point that if you hear an ambulance speeding into downtown there’s a fair chance that they’re responding to a call involving K2.

It’s been a long day. At some point I realize that hanging around the most popular spot to deal K2 is beginning to look suspicious. The fact that I’m waiting around, camera in hand, even after multiple trains have passed through is starting to get some attention. It’s time to go home. On the DART ride back to my car, another young man who can only be between 20 and 25 years old gets on at Akard Station and sits down across from me. As we get underway, he reaches into his backpack and pulls out a large stack of crisp $100 bills. He fans them out in plain sight and then begins to count through them as if I don’t exist.



The train's overhead speaker announcement at that very moment couldn’t have been timed any more perfectly:

“Please report any suspicious or criminal activity to DART Police”. 

But honestly, how was I supposed to know where he got his $1,000+ in cash from? Maybe it was a hard days work, or maybe he just sold something via Craigslist. It’s not my place to judge, but after the sights and sounds of the day, the mind does wander.



All photographs in the Walking Dallas series, and in this set in particular, make no claim whatsoever to portray drug-related activities. None of the individuals shown in these photographs are claimed to be involved in any way with drug-related activities, be it buying, selling or using.

Photographs displayed in this series are for illustrative purposes only.