In 2012, Jesse Snodgrass was a 17-year-old Temecula, Calif. high school student — with Aspergers Syndrome — when he was pressured to buy drugs for an undercover officer.
His parents recently did a tearful interview with Vice for an episode titled “The War on Kids.” Jesse did not participate because since his December arrest in 2012, when five armed officers wearing bulletproof vests showed up in his art class and charged him with two felonies, he has suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder.
Twenty-one other students were also arrested from the two high schools in a sting where undercover officers posed as students.
The cop, “Daniel,” reportedly befriended Jesse at Chaparral High School at the beginning of his senior year. Jesse thought he had made a friend. Daniel was actually Deputy D. Zipperstein and would later arrest Jesse after he bought marijuana from him twice.
Jesse’s parents said Jesse “had no friends,” and that Daniel was a milestone in Jesse’s life. His dad called him a “God-send.” They said that early in the semester Daniel asked Jesse to get him weed, and gave him $20. He said Jesse had no idea where to buy drugs, and after Daniel pressured him he “agonized” over what to do. He eventually went to a medical marijuana dispensary and bought Daniel $20 worth of weed.
“I think he was really worried about ‘how am I gonna do this? Because if I don’t, I’m gonna lose my only friend.’ His only friend.”
Jesse’s parents told the story of him as a child and his first signs of Aspergers, when his mom said she had to go out of her way to find him play dates.
“I wanted to encourage any friendships.”
She called what happened the biggest betrayal.
“He wasn’t even upset about being locked up. He was upset that this person betrayed him.”
Jesse was sent to a juvenile detention facility and expelled.
Steve Downing, a retired deputy chief for the Los Angeles Police Department, said that the fact that Jesse couldn’t buy weed on campus is proof the officers’ presence at the school was unnecessary, and that the cops ruined “thousands of lives” by branding people as drug users.
“They slap down the kids that are the weakest,” Downing said.
He said officers review students’ files before going into the schools, and “they knew going in that Jesse Snodgrass was a special needs student.”
Vice reports that although some states have legalized marijuana, federal grants are still awarded for departments based on drug arrest numbers, which is why arrests preying on students like Jesse are plentiful.
Watch the entire episode here: