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Undercover drug officer poses as high school student for 8 months

March 16, 2012 |  5:00 am

An eight-month investigation into a Central California high school ended this week when a 22-year-old undercover officer aided in the arrest of 12 students accused of selling drugs on the campus.  

The Visalia Times-Delta reported that the officer, who had posed as a student named Johnny Ramirez, put on his uniform on for the first time Wednesday despite having worked undercover for the Exeter Police Department since the school year started in the fall.

The arrests Wednesday reportedly have shocked the small town of about 10,000 resident that lies between Bakersfield and Fresno. The arrested students were between the ages of 15 and 19; eight of the 11 attended Exeter Union High School, where many of the arrests were made.

Senior Lance Rowell, 17, said he became friends with the undercover officer and was surprised by the revelation that he was not a student.

"I sat next to Johnny Ramirez in three classes," Rowell told the paper. "We really got to know each other. I can't believe it."

The students have been booked on charges including selling drugs within 1,000 feet of a school, possession of a controlled substance, conspiracy and accessory, the Times-Delta said.  

The undercover officer, whose name has not been released, completed homework assignments and took tests, like other students, officials told the Times-Delta. The Fresno Bee reported that the young-looking officer had recently graduated from the police academy.

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-- Matt Stevens
Twitter.com/mattstevenslat

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