The mother of a Massachusetts college student who died of a heroin overdose last year while working as an informant for campus police wants to know why authorities used him for their purposes instead of taking steps that could have saved his life.
The 20-year-old UMass Amherst student, whose mother asked that he be identified only as "Logan," was found dead on the bathroom floor of his apartment by his parents last October, after they showed up for the school's annual family weekend. But their shock and grief would soon be compounded by the revelation that campus authorities had known about their son's drug use and declined to report it as part of an agreement to help police bust bigger drug dealers.
“He was that kid who never had to study and still got good grades," his mother, who asked not to be identified, recalled. "He was easy-going and fun to be around and people loved that about him.”
Campus officials do not dispute striking a deal with Logan shortly after he was caught selling LSD and the club drug Molly and in possession of a hypodermic needle nearly a year before his death, an offense that typically would have led to his suspension and notification of his parents.
“The discussion occurred: Do you want to participate in a process where you would help the police go after what we consider a much larger drug dealer endangering a lot of other people,” university spokesman Ed Blaguszewski told Fox News.
But Logan’s mother said that was no choice at all for her then-19-year-old son.
“I don’t think they’re qualified to determine the potential fitness of a confidential informant," she said. "And putting a young adult into a situation where he see no real alternative other than becoming a CI places a huge weight on that young person. It’s just too much.”
UMass Amherst officials say they have policies in place to alert parents if students are caught drinking or using illegal substances on campus. But this notification can be withdrawn if a student cuts a deal with police, leaving their drug use off the books. Keeping parents in the dark can be a strong incentive for a student who risks being expelled and losing scholarships.
Logan's mother believes if her son had been punished, and she had been told of his troubles, she might have been able to get him help. And he might still be alive, she said.
“If someone had notified me or his Dad that this was going on, then maybe we wouldn’t be having this conversation and maybe he would have been able to live a full life,” she said. “I would have done what needed to be done in order to ensure that he stayed clean. Even if it meant pulling him out of college. Even if it meant calling the cops and putting him in jail so that he stayed clean. I would have done whatever it took.”
Blaguszewski said even the school's top officials were not told of Logan's trouble with the law, since he agreed to help police.
“In the case of a confidential informant, the dean is not notified because someone hasn’t been arrested.”
Law enforcement veterans acknowledge that balancing the rights of a young adult and the concerns of their parents is often a losing proposition under current law.
“A college freshman or a sophomore or a junior, they are adults in the eyes of the law," said Quincy, Mass., Police Lt. Patrick Glynn, who has no involvement in the case. “We don’t have the right to notify their parents. And understandably so, as a parent, you’re upset that your child is involved in the criminal justice system and you have no clue. But it is their right.
"But were not just looking at the law issue," Glynn added. "We have to look at this person as a human being, who has a family, who has a future.”
While his mother has received few details on Logan’s role as a campus police informant, she wants the student she believes supplied his fatal dose brought to justice. Police did not comment on that part of their investigation, but UMass Amherst has suspended the campus police department's confidential informant program pending further review, a move that Logan’s mother applauds.
“I’ll applaud it even further if they mandate that kids caught with drugs are forced to go to a drug program,” she said.