Aftermath of Drug Bust

Police say arrests to continue

By Brian L. Covert
Tribune Staff Writer

South Lake Tahoe police plan two more arrests today at South Tahoe High School in connection with an undercover drug trafficking investigation that has netted 14 high school students and 12 adults who allegedly were linked with selling drugs to the teenagers.

Police said one other adult believed to be connected with the case also is sought.

The five-month probe, the first time an officer has gone undercover in a South Shore high school, culminated Wednesday as officers removed high school students from their classes for arrest and made early-morning raids on three local residences.

Lake Tahoe Unified School District officials praised the department for its handling of the arrests.

“They conducted themselves extremely well,” said LTUSD Superintendent Dr. Robert Fisher today. “They were prepared not to cause additional problems.

“They handled it professionally.”

Fisher said the district also was pleased that so few students out of a large student body were involved and to “see there wasn’t a large amount of drugs being negotiated or sold or being possessed by our students on the campus.”

He also said the arrests might make a point: “that dealing with drugs and possession are illegal and there are consequences when you choose to violate the law.”

Only the upper echelon of the police department and the district attorney were aware of the investigation, according to Police Chief B. Dean Shelton. School officials were notified Tuesday afternoon.

Posing as a student, a 20-year-old female undercover officer attended the high school since the beginning of the spring semester, officers said. Only after the high school arrests were made did students actually see her on campus in her police uniform.

Shelton would not identify the officer.

“She’s not from this area and she has no intention of staying,” he said. The undercover officer lived by herself and kept her social activities to a minimum, said Shelton.

“The only social life she had was with us,” Shelton said. “We were very careful about her activities in the school.”

She had another undercover officer “tailing” her at all times for her own safety, he said.

She allegedly recorded conversations with only those students directly involved in the investigation while the drug deals were set up in the school hallways, he explained. Shelton added that at no time was the recorder turned on during classes or in restrooms.

Most of the actual drug dealings were made off-campus, with the arrangements made at the school, he said.

The undercover officer also kept watch for school employees or staff who may have been potentially involved in drug trafficking. Shelton said no school employees were found to have any connection with drug dealing.

“We came out of there very proud of our school,” he said. “The administration was so tight that the kids were afraid to deal on campus.”

Shelton called the investigation a “success.”

“We managed to get several sources of narcotics suppliers to the kids, and that, to me, is the most important part of the investigation. If we can discourage one kid (from being involved with drugs), that’s what we’re after.”

Officers caught four adult occupants at the first residence by surprise when they served search warrants about 7 a.m. The adults were not fully awake or fully dressed when officers arrived. The adults were later arrested on charges ranging from allegedly possessing an illegal weapon to alleged marijuana and cocaine sales.