ExclusiveInvestigations

Surveillance, a raid, and a race to delete evidence: How investigators nabbed a deadly pill pusher

Two Decembers ago, Rocklin teenager Zachary Didier was late to wake up. His dad went to check on him. Almost immediately, he found the situation was far more dire than a faulty alarm clock.

“I got within two feet, and I knew something was horribly wrong,” his dad, Chris, recalled in a video interview.

Didier was dead, likely from a drug overdose, officials told his family. His death shook the local community and made headlines nationwide after it was revealed that the death was caused by pills, sold on the street as prescription painkillers, that were really made with the synthetic opioid fentanyl.

The death was just one of many accidental overdoses on the drug in the Sacramento area, with buyers purchasing shoddily pressed drugs made by dealers attempting to stretch the product. The corner-cutting has proved fatal, with 140 people falling victim to the trend in 2021, according to the Sacramento County District Attorney’s Office.

Didier’s dealer, Virgil Bordner Jr., was quickly arrested and later pled no contest to several felonies, including involuntary manslaughter. A judge will decide his fate early next month, and he’s looking at a maximum term of 17 years in prison – the same age Didier was when he died.

Hundreds of previously unseen court documents, tracked down by The Update through a series of CPRA requests, outline how Didier’s tragic death morphed from a medical call to a sprawling, multi-agency probe involving surveillance campaigns, an undercover operation, and a last-minute effort to hide electronic evidence.

‘MOBILE’

The cogs of law enforcement began to grind the day Didier passed away, with the Rocklin Police Department responding to assist with the coroner’s case at the Didier home. After medical professionals determined that the death was possibly linked to a fentanyl overdose, the Placer Special Investigation Unit joined in.

The unit, a multi-agency task force centered around investigating drug trafficking crimes in Placer County, is outfitted with experienced law enforcement officers, including former federal agent Patrick Craven – a key investigator in Didier’s death.

Craven, shortly after Didier died, visited his family, who turned over the teen’s cell phone to him for processing. The officer scrolled through Snapchat stories posted by friends the teen had added, when he landed on one that was particularly of interest.

“Mobile. Sacramento area, Rocklin, Roseville, Lincoln,” a snapper with the handle of Buzzy, username gunna916, typed onto a blank background, interspersing cell phone emojis in the message.

He knew exactly what it meant. The words “mobile” followed by a location with cellphone emojis is often used by drug dealers as a short, succinct way to let would-be customers know they’re available to sell for the day. It’s also vague enough that it could, in theory, mean several things.

One message was saved in the chat history between Didier and Buzzy. On December 27, 2020 – the day Didier died – he appeared to respond to one of the teen’s messages.

“My bad just seen this,” Buzzy wrote. “But later around 9 ima be working.”

Craven continued to click through Buzzy’s stories. One was a video of a pile of Oxycodone, suspected to have been pressed with fentanyl, along with two more videos of Xanax bars.

The officer learned, following an examination of Didier’s cell phone data, that he texted Buzzy and told him he took Oxy on the evening of December 26. The next morning, he was found dead.

Snapchat stories posted by “Buzzy”, aka gunna916. PCSIU via Placer County Superior Court.

FRIEND: MAN SOLD DIDIER PILLS AT THE GALLERIA

It wasn’t until a meeting with one of Didier’s friends that Craven was able to carve out a substantial lead in the investigation. The friend, whom The Update is not identifying, told Craven that Didier confided in him, confessing one day that he was “overwhelmed with stress” about the process of applying to colleges.

According to the friend, during the conversation, Didier brought up the idea of taking oxycodone pills in an ill-advised effort to ease the stress. Didier said he found some dealers on Snapchat, and later arranged to purchase three M-30 pills from Buzzy for $45.

The friend accompanied Didier to the Westfield Galleria Mall in Roseville and met up with a Hispanic man on the second floor outside of Macy’s, who identified himself as Buzzy from Snapchat. The man asked the duo if they had taken Oxycodone before and they both answered no, which he followed up on by giving them instructions on how to use the drug.

The man instructed the friends that they needed to start off slow by shaving the pill, working their way up to a quarter or half of a pill once their bodies became tolerant to the dosage. They both took their first doses later that night. The friend, who snorted shavings from one of the pills, told investigators the experience was uncomfortable and said he had to “consciously think about breathing.”

The next day, the friend told the cops, he and Didier met with Buzzy again at an apartment complex in Rocklin. He pulled up in a black BMW and sold two more pills to Didier.

Surveillance footage from the Galleria Mall showed Didier and a Hispanic man meet up and walk out of the camera’s view. A minute later, the man returned alone.

BORDNER LINKED TO BUZZY ACCOUNT

A week after Didier died, his parents gave TFO Craven permission to use his Snapchat account in an effort to lure Buzzy – still unidentified – into a sting operation.

“Hey u got any oxy,” Craven texted Buzzy, pretending to be Didier.

“Not rn I can try to find some tho,” the user answered.

The conversation continued into January 7, when Buzzy apparently got ahold of the drugs. After selling to several others, he sent the undercover agents an address.

“Ok can you come to 1380 wise rd?” he asked.

Agents were attempting to lure the dealer into coming out in public, likely so he could be arrested easier. After he insisted on meeting at 1380 Wise, agents canceled the meeting. On January 12, task force officers conducted surveillance on the house – a four bedroom, three-bath home on 6.4 acres up the street from the Cal Fire station.

Agents observed a black BMW in the driveway, registered to a Virgil Bordner of Strawberry Lane in South Oak Park. They pulled Bordner’s Sacramento County booking photo and compared it with a photo posted to Snapchat by Buzzy – it was the same person. Investigators now had a suspect.

Bordner’s Sac County mugshot juxtaposed with a picture uploaded to the gunna916/Buzzy Snapchat account. PCSIU via Placer County Superior Court.

HOT ON THE TRAIL

On the 13th, Bordner posted a new story on Snapchat about selling a gun.

“Who need glock 23,” he wrote, interspersing the message with gun and cell phone emojis.

The story was used, along with the identification of Bordner and the photos of the drugs, to obtain a search warrant for Bordner, the Wise house, and any of his vehicles from Superior Court Judge Mark Curry. The warrant was approved and ordered the seizure of Oxycodone, Xanax, a Glock 23, and any items associated with drug sales.

The warrant would go unexecuted, according to law enforcement, due to “officer and community safety considerations”, limited resources, and limited communication with Bordner.

On January 21, 2021, Craven used Didier’s Snapchat account once again in an effort to lure him out of Lincoln, proposing a buy for $350 worth of Oxycodone. Bordner agreed to meet at the Cheesecake Factory location at the Galleria Mall and notified the undercovers of his arrival at 12:12 PM through Snapchat.

Before investigators could call in a marked patrol unit, Bordner said he had to leave and peeled off. Little did he know, a helicopter was trailing him back to the Wise Rd. house in Lincoln.

On the 22nd, a second search warrant for Bordner, the house, and his vehicles was approved. Officers set up a surveillance perimeter around the home on the 25th and saw his car pull out. They stopped the car and pulled him out in handcuffs.

BORDNER’S GIRLFRIEND ROLLS

The house on Wise Road. PCSIU via Placer County Superior Court

Bordner and his vehicle were driven to a staging area as officers in raid gear descended on the house on Wise Rd. After securing their dogs, the occupants of the home let agents inside.

A family of three, including a mother and a daughter, were inside the home and spoke with law enforcement. The Update is not identifying the three people found in the house because they aren’t facing any charges.

The daughter, an adult, said she only knew Bordner as “Buz” and that she was in a relationship with him. She described their yearlong relationship as “codependent drug users” and said Bordner often spent the night at her house.

The woman confirmed to police that Bordner controlled the Buzzy profile on Snapchat, as well as a phone number with a Sacramento area code. Agents looped back to Bordner’s car and searched it, recovering a digital scale and a cell phone plugged into a charger. One officer used Snapchat to send a message to Buzzy, and the phone lit up in response. A notification rolled across the screen: Zachary Didier had sent him a message.

At 12:56 PM, Bordner waived his Miranda rights and spoke to police in the backseat of a Roseville Police vehicle. He said he didn’t own social media accounts, and never went by the name Buzzy, but froze up without an answer when the cops asked why he was receiving Snapchat messages on his phone.

When asked about fentanyl, Bordner told police he had “nothing to say about that.”

‘HIDE THE SHIT’

Following the interrogation, Bordner was arrested on charges of selling a controlled substance to a minor, possession of a controlled substance for sale, and causing death or great bodily injury during the commission of a felony. He made four phone calls from holding cell 49 before bonding out the next day.

The phone calls, reviewed by the same team who made Bordner’s arrest, were a series of coded pleas from Bordner asking his family to “hide the shit” and clear out his Snapchat account in an apparent effort to make it difficult for the state to prosecute him.

In a 15-minute call, Bordner told his mom that he needed to “get into his accounts,” and she put his dad on the phone.

“If you got shit in there, I need to get it and get it off there,” his dad said.

Bordner’s father then began attempting to crack his Snapchat account. He tried seven different passwords before he was locked out of the account due to too many failed attempts.

Several more calls passed, and the family gave up on cracking the Snapchat account, instead trying on his Instagram page. His dad tried four passwords before he was able to log into the account and delete it. A placeholder account later cropped up in its place.

Bordner’s Snapchat had the same password as his Instagram. That was deleted, too, and Bordner posted bond. Nobody in Bordner’s family has been charged for attempting to delete the evidence.

A few weeks after he bailed out, Bordner’s probation officers raided his house on Strawberry Lane. He and his father were later charged with possessing for-sale amounts of psilocybin, pot, MDMA, and promethazine with codeine.

DEAL REACHED AS PROSECUTORS WEIGH MURDER CHARGE

An affidavit linked to the last search warrant in the case, filed in February of 2022, revealed details that, officials say, created even more of a sound basis for an involuntary manslaughter charge.

In June of 2020, he was pulled over in Curtis Park with a fellow Norteno gang member, Eduardo Ortiz. Cops found a stolen .38 Special in the car and booked both men on gun and street gang charges. He was sentenced to two years in state prison for the offense.

Bordner arrived at a state prison facility alone – his codefendant passed away while both men awaited sentencing. His cause of death: Acute combined fentanyl and hydrocode toxicity.

“Based on the fact that BORDNER’s associate died of an overdose on August 24, 2020, I believe information may be found on BORDNER’s iCloud about that incident that could provide evidence that BORDNER knew about the dangers of the drug he sold to the decedent in this case,” Craven wrote at the end of the affidavit. “The content could show that BORDNER [was familiar] with fentanyl, knew how dangerous fentanyl is, and his prior knowledge of fentanyl overdoses.”

Prosecutors ultimately filed a three-charge complaint against Bordner, charging him with involuntary manslaughter and two counts of selling a controlled substance to a minor, along with a special allegation of great bodily injury. He was moved back to Placer County on an order of production given to CDCR, where he remained without bail.

Following months of continuance requests, Bordner pled not guilty and both parties began to prepare for a preliminary hearing. A new development following a review by prosecutors, however, may have spurred him to change his mind.

As Bordner’s case inched through the court system, another drug dealer was arrested in Roseville: Carson David Schewe.

Schewe, 20, was charged with the second-degree murder of Kade Webb, also 20, who died in the bathroom of a grocery store in December of 2021. Prosecutors in that case have been tasked with proving implied malice – that Schewe knew the pills he was hawking were lethal fakes and he sold them anyway.

According to a source with direct knowledge of the case – who spoke on the condition of anonymity – Deputy District Attorney Daniel Wesp was planning to add a murder charge against Bordner in light of Schewe’s arrest. Bordner and Schewe would’ve been the only two defendants ever charged with murder in relation to a Placer County drug death.

“They felt, in reviewing all the evidence, a murder charge was appropriate in Zach’s case as well,” the source said.

Ethan Biando
Ethan Biando is a freelance journalist from Sacramento. His writing focuses on crime, courts, and policing. Find him on Twitter @ethanb822
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