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Saturday, November 22, 2003 - Page updated at 12:00 A.M.

Redmond drug sting interrupts school day, nabs teens

By Lisa Heyamoto
Seattle Times eastside bureau

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Five Redmond High School students were arrested on campus yesterday in a drug bust that was two months in the making, police said.

After receiving citizen complaints about drug activity around campus, Redmond police enrolled an undercover officer who posed as a student for the last month, according to police spokeswoman Stacey Holland. Under the operation, dubbed "School Check," she said, the officer bought marijuana, cocaine and the prescription drug OxyContin, or OC, from the students.

Around 8:30 a.m. yesterday, Holland said, uniformed officers escorted the students from their second-period classrooms into the hallway, where they were arrested.

A fellow student who was in one of the classrooms where a suspect was arrested said the teacher asked everyone to stay calm as an officer took the student away in handcuffs.

Two of the students, who are 18, were being held in the King County Jail. Two 17-year-olds were being held in the King County Youth Center, and a 16-year-old was released to parents yesterday because of minimal involvement.

The students will likely face possession and delivery charges for their alleged roles in the drug deals, Holland said. They may also face disciplinary action at school.

"There are 1,400 students (at Redmond High), and most of them are great students," she said. "But you have a small percentage that make very, very poor decisions, and they have to serve the consequences, and there were consequences today."

The police enrolled the undercover officer with the permission of Redmond High Principal Brian Hunter, who said yesterday's action was the result of support from the police, the community and students.

"I'm pleased (with) anything we can do that makes this a safe and healthy place to come to school," he said. "The Police Department's work regarding this was excellent."

Reaction from students was mixed, with some saying the arrests make Redmond High look bad when it was only a few kids who were allegedly dealing. Yet drug talk flows freely through the halls of the school, and most everyone knows who deals and takes drugs, some students said. They said those who were arrested were popular, and the thought of an undercover officer among the crowd was a little unsettling.

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George Rhodes, a senior, said drugs aren't hard to find at Redmond, but it's not a place where dealers actively seek buyers. That means it's likely the officer had to ask upfront to get drugs from those accused of dealing, he said.

"It's kind of entrapmentlike," he said. "That's messed up, because someone had to go looking for it."

But for most, the incident was just a bit of excitement on a Friday morning, one that was intensified by the attention of news media.

"For the first two minutes it (was a big deal)," said senior Kevin Pennington. "But then it was like everything else, like a fight."

Lisa Heyamoto: 206-464-2149 or lheyamoto@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2003 The Seattle Times Company

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