3 Arrested in Assault on 3 Firefighters

Times Staff Writer

Three men believed to have been under the influence of jimson weed were arrested Wednesday night after they attacked three firefighters who stopped to help them after a traffic accident in Granada Hills, police reported.

The three were later hospitalized from the poisonous affects of the drug, and one was in critical condition.

The men, all of whom appeared to be in their 20s, were arrested on suspicion of battery on a firefighter, said Los Angeles Police Department Sgt. Kent Setty.

The men had no identification and refused to give their names, police said.

One was rushed to Granada Hills Hospital after he appeared to stop breathing in the Devonshire Station jail, Setty said. Hospital officials said the man was in critical condition. The other two were in stable condition at Holy Cross Hospital.

One of the men bit the hand of a firefighter who had stopped to help the men at Rinaldi Street and Balboa Boulevard where their car slammed into another auto, Setty said. A motorist, whose name was not released, was slightly injured in the collision.

The firefighter who was bitten also suffered a dislocated back, police said. Another firefighter suffered cuts and pain in his left knee and a third firefighter dislocated his shoulder and elbow in the scuffle, Setty said.

When the men were taken to the station, officers at first believed they were under the influence of PCP, Setty said. Medical authorities later determined they were under the influence of jimson weed, a member of the highly poisonous nightshade family.

Also called the wild cucumber, the plant produces seeds containing atropine, a substance that is sometimes used as a drug for medical purposes, but which can be lethal. When chewed, the seeds produce a "high" that can be fatal. No antidote is known.

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