By Nathan Baker
Local police say a secretive undercover operation reminiscent of the plot of a 1980s crime drama was used to investigate drug activity in the Carter County School System.
On Monday, Carter County Sheriff Chris Mathes revealed the results of a 10-month investigation nicknamed “Operation Jump Street,” during which Deputy Donna Rogan posed as high school senior Hannah Reagan to ferret out drug use and other illegal activities in the county’s schools.
“For the past couple of years, we’ve had complaints of drugs in our schools,” Mathes said. “We tried to exhaust every method possible before we finally chose to put an undercover officer into the school last year.”
Fourteen people, including nine students, were arrested during the course of the investigation, two vehicles were seized and 10 firearms were collected by officers, the sheriff said.
The adults arrested and their charges were:
- Rodney A. Adkins Sr., 46, illegal firearms possession
- Jerry M. Warner, 60, maintaining a dwelling where narcotics are manufactured or sold, manufacture of a Schedule VI controlled substance, illegal firearms possession
- Justin S. Pierce, 20, criminal impersonation
- Andrew T. Smith, 20, sale of a Schedule VI controlled substance
- Codi B. Derr, 19, sale Schedule III controlled narcotics
- Tyler L. Salo, 18, casual exchange of narcotics
- Alexis B. Townsend, 19, sale of Schedule III controlled narcotics, contributing to the delinquency of a minor
- Amber N. Morton, 18, sale of Schedule III controlled narcotics, contributing to the delinquency of a minor
- Samantha D. Estep, 18, sale of Schedule III controlled narcotics, contributing to the delinquency of a minor
Mathes said the five minors who were arrested, whom he declined to identify, were charged with a variety of crimes, including the possession and sale of marijuana and sexual battery.
He said the instance of sexual battery occurred when a student exposed his genitals to the undercover officer, believing she was a fellow student, and assaulted her in a classroom while the teacher was out.
Before initiating the operation, the sheriff said he met with school administrators and District Attorney Tony Clark to discuss the legal implications of placing an undercover officer in the schools.
Once the operation was greenlighted in May 2012, the undercover deputy created a Facebook account under the assumed name of Hannah Reagan and began posting messages that she would soon be moving to Carter County and attending a local high school.
The following September, unbeknownst to most of the school’s staff and security officers, she began a full course load of classes at one of the four county high schools and took on the role of a student.
“She basically became Hannah Reagan while she was there,” Mathes said. “We changed her identity some and altered her physical appearance from who she really is.
“We even set up, if she was absent and the school was to call, we had somebody that was going to answer the phone and be her father. We tried to leave no loopholes open that would compromise her safety or the safety of anyone else.”