Autistic kid arrested after cop pretended to befriend him, then pressured him to buy pot

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(NaturalNews) When your community is fortunate enough to be ranked the second safest city in the United States, sleep should come easier at night, but the peacefulness of Temecula, Calif. didn't prevent the local police department from conspiring to entrap students at Chaparral High School.

Police departments receive federal grant money based on the number of drug related arrest reports, a fact that some believe motivated police to carry out operation "Glasshouse."

In an interview with Vice for an episode titled "The War on Kids," the Snodgrass family tells their story of how undercover Deputy Daniel Zipperstein posed as a high school student in order to befriend their autistic son and pressure him to buy drugs.

The undercover sting, orchestrated by the Riverside County Sheriff's Department, was responsible for arresting 22 high school students, nine of which were classified as special needs kids, including Jesse Snodgrass, 17, who was diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome and suffered behavioral problems since his infancy.

Post-traumatic stress disorder caused by the violent raid on the teen's house in 2012, prevented him from participating in interviews, but seeking justice, his family stepped forward to tell their story.

Jesse's parents were ecstatic when they learned of their son's new friendship with a young man named Daniel, who befriended him the beginning of his senior year. Usually a loner at school, the Snodgrass family called Daniel a "God-send," and was grateful their son finally had a companion.

However, in a disturbing turn of events, the Snodgrasses soon learned Daniel wasn't who he said he was, but instead undercover Deputy D. Zipperstein.

Zipperstein, 20, reportedly participated in all of the school activities, one day even making a lewd comment about a 15-year-old girl's butt after she finished dance class, according to another high school student who was also duped by the deputy.

Students say Daniel would ask to sit with them and repeatedly pester them to get him drugs. This happened almost daily, until finally some students gave in, one of them being Jesse.

Jesse's parents say their son finally gave in under pressure after receiving more than 60 texts over a three-week period to buy a joint from a homeless man. Wanting to preserve the friendship, Jesse accepted $20 from Daniel, and used it to buy pot from a homeless man near a marijuana dispensary.

Jesse purchased the drug twice under the officer's requests. After turning over the pot, the undercover deputy cut off all ties to the teen.

Armed with bulletproof vests, police soon raided Jesse's home, charging him with two felonies and then locked him up in a juvenile detention center with other students involved in the sting.

The Snodgrasses say their son was more upset by the betrayal than his arrest.

"On its surface it's offensive. A child with autism, in school, where there's supposed to be safe haven, is exposed to this trained adult masquerading as a child whose sole purpose is to commit a crime that they wouldn't have necessarily committed otherwise," stressed Mr. Snodgrass.

Retired LAPD Deputy Chief, Stephen M Downing, said Zipperstein "taught him how to buy and sell dope," adding that the fact that Jesse had to leave campus to buy drugs, meant there weren't any drugs present on campus and therefore no need for police to be there.

Police in these cases often, "slap down the kids that are the weakest," said Stephen.

"You don't see them going after the bank president's kid, they don't ever get him. They get the minority kids, and the autistic children."

Teenagers become felons for life

All of the students arrested in operation "Glasshouse," were charged with felonies, some for selling as little as a pill because of California's zero tolerance policy on drugs in schools.

The 22 students arrested were also expelled, and even after a criminal judge dismissed Jesse's case, the Temecula Valley Unified School District moved to permanently expel him, despite the teen's plans to graduate in a few short months.

Sworn testimony revealed three people in the school district were aware of the undercover operation, that being Michael Hubbard, the Director of Child Welfare and Attendance, Superintendent Timothy Ritter and Robert Brown, member of the board ed and the board president.

In October last year, the Snodgrasses filed a lawsuit against the Temecula Valley Unified School District, Hubbard, and Director of Special Education Kimberly Velez.

While the lawsuit is still pending, Jesse has since graduated and received his high school diploma. The Snodgrasses continue to spread the word of their son's story in hopes of protecting other children from what they call "entrapment."

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