A California school district drug sting last year netted 15 drug arrests at Temecula Valley High School, five from Chaparral High School, and two from Rancho Vista Continuation High School. The operation was touted as a success, with the seizure of LSD, heroin, ecstasy, marijuana, cocaine, methamphetamine and prescription drugs.
One such student arrested in this months-long undercover sting was an autistic 17-year-old boy.
Deputy Daniel Zipperstein, undercover as Daniel Briggs, struck up a “friendship” with the boy. This greatly pleased the Snodgrasses, the boy’s parents, as he had trouble making friends. The boy kept inviting his new friend over, but there was always an excuse–he was grounded, or otherwise could not.
As time went on, Zipperstein began pestering the teen–texting him around the clock, asking him to sell him marijuana, or his prescription medication. As his parents kept his medication locked away responsibly, he was unable to access it. Zipperstein pestered him for three weeks until the boy finally bought him, with money Zipperstein had previously provided, a half a joint of marijuana from a homeless man–desperate to keep his new friend. He did this once more, but refused to continue to do so any further–at which point, Zipperstein ended the “friendship.”
The Snodgrasses say their son was arrested soon after, and not permitted to see them until his court date two days later. They describe his condition when they found him as traumatized. Catherine Snodgrass says that the look in his eyes “will forever haunt” them.
The teen has been suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder–including insomnia, panic attacks, depression, and infliction of self-injury since his arrest.
The case was dismissed due to extenuating circumstances. However, the school district, deciding that he had not been through enough, sought to expel him. A judge overturned the expulsion, saying that “even though [Superintendent] Hubbard knew [student] was a special needs student, he knew [student]was targeted i the undercover operation, and that [student] was going to be arrested. District did nothing.”
The teen returned to school, but was unable to graduate with his senior class. The district is appealing the decision, attempting to expel him…again.
Of the 22 students arrested, almost all were minorities, and many were special education students. The majority of “Deputy Dan’s” arrests at Chaparral were special education students. One such special ed. student is currently serving a one year sentence resulting from this farce.
The Snodgrasses have announced a lawsuit alleging negligence and intentional infliction of emotional distress in state Superior Court, asking for unspecified damages from the Temecula Valley School District.
They have set up a legal fund to help pay court costs. At the time of writing, it has raised over $2500.
Hear the Snodgrass’s Heartbreaking Story for Yourself