By Trish Mehaffey, The Gazette
CEDAR RAPIDS — Gwen Meek watched her son Jerrald slowly change after he started using K-2. It altered his life, and she believes it led to his death.
Jerrald Meek, 35, swallowed some K-2 and hanged himself in his parents’ home August 26.
“We were there,” Gwen said. “I only saw him a few minutes ... That was too much. I don’t want to remember him that way. His (8-year-old) daughter was there, but she didn’t see him. I told her later he is dancing with Jesus.”
According to the Office of National Drug Control Policy, synthetic cannabinoids — commonly known as “synthetic marijuana” or “K-2” — are sold legally in retail outlets as “herbal incense” or “potpourri.” The ONDCP says synthetic cannabinoids are labeled “not for human consumption” in order to avoid government oversight of their manufacturing process.
Though the city recently passed an ordinance to ban K-2, Gwen wants to start a campaign to ban it from the state. She has set up a public forum at 1:30 p.m. Saturday in the Veteran’s Memorial Coliseum, 50 2nd Ave. Bridge, to start a discussion about the dangers of K-2.
In one of their last conversations, Gwen told her son she felt like she lost him to Afghanistan. Jerrald had served three deployments in the Army; he was with the 82nd Airborne and Special Forces unit from 2006 to 2012, and served three tours in Afghanistan.
Jerrald was discharged in December 2012 for using cannabis, Gwen said. She thinks he was using K-2 at the time, because she read information that the military started including testing for synthetic marijuana.
Gwen said her son had post-traumatic stress issues after his time in combat. He had trouble sleeping and told her he started using K-2 because it was “legal.” She told him, “So is Drano” — which shares ingredients with some synthetic drugs.
Gwen said things started falling apart for her son in May 2012. He had problems with both money and his marriage, and he was told he wouldn’t be deployed with the rest of his unit. When Gwen and her husband Jerry visited Jerrald in Colorado the month before, she knew “things were not right.”
Jerrald, who was always highly intelligent, said he thought he had brain damage and that his roommate drugged him. Another time, he sent an email talking about another soldier who was getting a bronze star for saving his life; he insisted the incident didn’t happen. Gwen said it could have been either the post-traumatic stress or the K-2 that affected him mentally.
After Jerrald and his wife split up in July 2013, he and his daughter came back to live with Gwen and Jerry in Cedar Rapids. Jerrald would have good and bad days; he spent time with his daughter, but he continued to use K-2. Gwen says she tried to get him to stop, begging him to go to the Veteran’s Hospital in Iowa City. He refused.
Last January, he had one of those bad days. He took a sword and broke out a window at the First Presbyterian Church, then walked into the pastor’s office and started talking to him like nothing happened. Gwen thinks he believed he was back in Afghanistan.
“He was never like this before,” Gwen said. “He was always tenderhearted and sensitive. He would have never hurt anyone.”
Jerrald pleaded to two misdemeanors and received two years probation, according to court records. Gwen said when he was released from jail, he agreed to get help and was given medication. Thanks to that medication, Gwen says she and Jerry saw their real son again — but then he stopped taking it after a few weeks, and started using K-2 again instead.
Believing that Jerrald wouldn’t have used K-2 if it wasn’t being sold as something legal, Gwen says she wants something positive to come out of his death. That’s why she pushed for Saturday’s forum, where counselor with ASAC will talk about synthetic drugs and a representative from Foundation 2 will address suicide prevention.
Gwen said she couldn’t get Jerrald the help he needed, but she hopes this forum will help another parent if they are in this situation.
“I’m at peace now,” she said. “He’s not suffering anymore.”