Whitesburg KY

Grand jury gets LCC ‘vape’ case; one student charged with felonies

Felony charges against a Letcher County Central High School student accused of supplying an intoxicating substance to other students have been referred to the Letcher County Grand Jury for further action.

The case against Dylon Cates, 18, was “bound over” to the grand jury after a preliminary hearing in Letcher District Court on May 19.

Cates, 18, is accused of sharing a vaporizer device with two other Letcher County Central High School students in a classroom around 11 a.m. on May 11 while a teacher had stepped out of the room to obtain teaching materials, Lt. Bert Slone, school resource officer and Letcher County Sheriff ’s deputy, testified during the preliminary hearing for Cates.

A substance ingested through the vaporizer is being analyzed at a lab to determine if the oily-like material contains synthetic drugs.

“Not for human consumption” was printed on the label of the container holding the substance Slone testified.

The two students Cates is accused of sharing the substance with, both 18, began “flipping out and having seizures,” according to court documents. The two, who both face misdemeanor charges of public intoxication (controlled substance), were treated at Whitesburg Appalachian Regional Hospital.

Cates, of Craft’s Colly, Ermine, left the classroom after the incident and was found in the LCCHS gymnasium, Slone testified. He was arrested and charged trafficking within 1,000 feet of a school, two counts of first-degree wanton endangerment, and public intoxication. The wanton endangerment and trafficking charges are Class D felonies, which carry one to five years imprisonment if convicted. The misdemeanor intoxication charge can carry a penalty of up to 90 days in jail.

A fourth 18-year-old student, also of Whitesburg, was arrested and charged with possession of synthetic cannabinoid antagonists or pipe materials, also a misdemeanor. The fourth student was not in the classroom while the other students allegedly “vaped.” He was found in the gymnasium with the vaping oil in his backpack, Slone said.

Because water mist produced from vaping disappears quicker than cigarette smoke, Slone said it is possible for a student to vape without detection while a teacher is writing on a chalkboard or helping another student.

Letcher Schools Supt. Tony Sergent said some vaporizers look like ink pens, making them impossible to detect.

“It’s a tough situation,” said Sergent. “It’s not a common thing.”

Sergent said he doesn’t want the four arrests to result in the impression that there is a huge drug problem at Letcher Central.

“It’s a safe place,” said Sergent. “It’s a good school.”

Sergent said principals, teachers and the school resource officer are visible at the high school and regularly monitor school grounds. Sergent said having Slone at the high school is a big help.

“I think he prevents a lot of things just by his presence,” said Sergent.

(Editor’s Note: Dylan Cates is identified in this report because he is charged with three felony crimes and his case has been referred to a grand jury. The Mountain Eagle does not publish the names of teen-agers charged with misdemeanors.)

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