Six Nevada Union High School students were arrested Tuesday morning on suspicion of drug sales after a three-month undercover operation.
The operation, a cooperative effort between the high school district, the state Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control and the Nevada County Sheriff’s Office, was initiated due to concerns from community members and parents regarding drug use and sales on campus, Sheriff Keith Royal said.
“We want to send the message that this type of activity is not condoned,” Royal said.
An undercover ABC operative was placed on campus about three months ago to investigate the distribution of illegal narcotics, Royal said. The operative purchased marijuana, hashish and hallucinogenic mushrooms and negotiated the sale of Ecstasy and prescription medications.
As a result of the investigation, Sheriff’s deputies and ABC personnel descended on the NU campus at about 9 a.m. and arrested six students, five of whom are 17-year-old boys. The five juveniles were booked at juvenile hall on drug sale charges, Royal said.
Forrest Cameron Good, 18, was arrested on suspicion of criminal conspiracy and transportation of a controlled substance for sale. He was being held in county jail in lieu of $10,000 bail.
“We might have additional arrests and search warrants forthcoming,” Royal said. “The investigation is ongoing.”
One of the juveniles also was arrested on conspiracy charges, said Lt. Steve Tripp.
“He was the middleman,” Tripp said. “He brought the undercover officer to the 18-year-old.”
The other four students were not connected and were selling independently of each other, said ABC Division Bureau Chief Eric Hirata.
The six students all were arrested shortly after 9 a.m., during second period, Tripp said.
“I think the teachers were shocked,” Tripp said, adding that no one at the school knew of the undercover operation until about 8 a.m. Tuesday.
Tripp said only one administrator was aware — Nevada Joint Union High School District Assistant Superintendent Trisha Dellis.
“It was nothing personal,” Tripp said. “But when we do undercover operations, the less people know about it, the better. We try to keep it as quiet as possible … for the undercover officer’s safety.”
“It’s got to be a tough time for those families, but at the same time for the safety of our school and the well-being of the kids, we’ve got to do what we need to do to make sure our schools are safe,” said Nevada Union Principal Mike Blake. “Hopefully, this will be a life-altering moment where the choices they make, hopefully this may steer them in the correct direction. I think the true mettle of their character will be tested as to how they respond because it’s a major event, so hopefully they’ll be able to respond positively and have that resilience to make new decisions and move on with their lives.
“I’m very glad we did this,” Blake continued. “I want to believe that the vast majority of our students really don’t want to condone this type of activity and really find it quite intolerable, and I think it’ll go a long ways and help establish a different culture and climate at NU. Maybe it’ll help some kids from being tempted because maybe they’re afraid of that. It certainly isn’t meant to be an ‘I gotcha’ because to me, when you do something like this, it’s not to catch them and punish them but to help them.”
Blake added that students or parents with concerns should contact one of the administrators at the school.
Tripp said the Sheriff’s Office requested assistance from the state because it could provide an undercover officer who would not be recognized.
“We started hearing a lot about drug distribution going on,” he said. “We were hearing information from kids that it was blatant on campus, so we were concerned. We heard enough that we decided to look into it more seriously. We’ve wanted to do this for some time, and this was a good opportunity for us.”
The undercover officer posed as a student, doing all his classwork and turning in his homework, Tripp said.
“It was a long three months for him,” Tripp said, laughing. “I give a lot of credit to that guy.”
Hirata said his agency has done about six or seven such undercover operations in the last 16 years.
“Our agents have a youthful appearance and often work undercover,” he said. “So they have that expertise in buying narcotics.”
Hirata said the agent in place at Nevada Union also was seeking information as to whether local stores were selling alcohol to minors.
“He had no leads on that — no retail outlets were identified,” he said. “Unfortunately, it was adults furnishing (alcohol) to students.”
The length of an undercover operation depends on the course of the investigation, Hirata said. In this case, some of the alleged drug transactions took some time.
“There was a reason to keep it going,” he said.
To contact Senior Staff Writer Liz Kellar, email email@example.com or call 530-477-4229.
“We want to send the message that this type of activity is not condoned.”
— Sheriff Keith Royal