Dan Schneider: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know

Dan Schneider

Netflix Dan Schneider

Dan Schneider, star of Netflix’s “The Pharmacist,” is an unlikely hero of the opioid epidemic. Daniel Schneider was a longtime Louisiana pharmacist who found himself in the spotlight after he vowed to avenge the death of his son, Danny Schneider Jr.

Schneider is speaking about his journey on the Netflix original limited series. The four-part documentary airs February 5, 2020.

His son, Danny Jr., was shot to death in 1999 in a drug deal gone awry. Scheider felt the police were not investigating the case seriously enough, and began his own investigation. He gave police information that led to an arrest in 2001. But his search for his son’s killer opened a new investigation, which began a quest to find those responsible for the opioid crisis and led to the take-down of notorious pill mill doctor Jacqueline Cleggett. Read more about Danny Schneider Jr. here and more about Cleggett here.

Here’s what you need to know:

Dan Schneider Was the Third of Four Children Born to an Insulation Installer

Daniel Schneider was born third in a family of four children. His father had a high school education and installed insulation for a living, The Times-Picayune reported in 2017. He was born in 1950 in the Upper 9th Ward.

When Schneider was only three months old, his family relocated to a newly built subdivision in nearby Chalmette, along with many of their white, middle class neighbors.

“This exodus, heaviest during the 1950s and ’60s, would leave the 9th Ward predominantly black and St. Bernard almost exclusively white. But as the drug trade blossomed in the ’80s and ’90s, an underground economy would develop between residents of each place,” wrote journalist Jed Lipinski.

The family had financial difficulties when Schneider was a child, but he told Lipinski he had a happy childhood. At Chalmette High School, he became all-district tackle for the football team. He was small for the position, but had a tenacity that made him stand out to his teammates.

He met Annie, his high school sweetheart, and eventually married her. Schneider had no particular interest in working as a pharmacist, but thought it would help him meet his goals of buying a house and starting a family, he said on the Netflix series. Danny Schneider Jr. was born in 1976, the year after Dan Schneider became a pharmacist, and their daughter, Kristi Schneider, was born in 1980.

“It just felt like the perfect life,” Annie Schneider said on the show. “We didn’t want for nothing else. We had everything.”

Schneider designed their home with 17-foot vaulted ceilings. Every year, they would put up a Christmas tree that filled the space and invite the neighborhood over to decorate it, according to The Times-Picayune. For extra money, Schneider got a real estate license and he and Annie opened an old fashioned snowball stand.

“We had a very happy life together,” Schneider told Lipinski. “Then the nightmare happened.”

1. Dan Schneider’s Son, Danny Jr., Was Murdered While Trying to Buy Drugs in New Orleans at Age 22

At about 2 a.m. April 14, 1999, sheriff’s deputies knocked on the door of the family home of Dan Schneider, The Times-Picayune reported. They said his 22-year-old son, Danny Jr., had been shot in the head while sitting in his truck in the Lower 9th Ward. He had cash crumpled in his hand, and police believed he was trying to buy crack. Dan Schneider and his wife, Annie, did not believe the news. They said their son was only studying with a friend that night, and he was sleeping in his room upstairs. Their 18-year-old daughter, Kristi, ran to his room to check.

“He’s not in his room, Daddy!” she came back, screaming.

Schneider described his son as compassionate and loving. He was a student and worked delivering pizza. He had a steady girlfriend he planned to marry. Danny Jr. had no criminal history. Just days before his death, he told his father he planned to work with people struggling with drug addiction, Schneider told the news outlet.

Schneider described his son on the Netflix show as a compassionate young man and a bit of a “peacenik.” Kristi Schneider said her brother was the type of person all her friends had crushes on.

2. Daniel Schneider Was Head Pharmacist at Bradley’s Pharmacy in a Tiny, Rural Town

At the time of his son’s death in 1999, Dan Schneider was head pharmacist at Bradley’s, a pharmacy in Poydras, a tiny rural town in St. Bernard Parish. It is one of five towns in the parish. Poydras has a population of only 3,886, The Times-Picayune reported in 2017.

Yet, it was that rural setting that was at the heart of the opioid epidemic in New Orleans. It became a minor hub for people across the coast who were buying drugs. Schneider had a front row seat to the drug crisis as he watched the painkiller gain a strong grip on his community.

“But unlike many others, he refused to do nothing about it,” wrote Jed Lipinski. “He would soon find himself recruiting informants, collaborating with federal agents and hunting down the most notorious pill mill doctor in New Orleans history.”

Schneider described the exodus of white people from his hometown as a “white flight” on the Netflix series. Their departure was racially based, he said. Black people who remained experienced “in your face racism,” said Terence Reed, a local pastor. Years later, when crack cocaine took root, white people were only in the Lower 9th Ward if they were police officers or drug addicts, said Jeffery Hall on the Netflix show.

Hall, who lived in the Lower 9th Ward and was only 15 years old, was the person identified as Danny Schneider Jr.’s killer. He had sold drugs to Schneider in the past, and came forward as a witness claiming he saw the shooter, naming a man named “Scar Face” as a suspect. Hall was later identified by another witness as the suspect.

3. Dan Schneider Gave Police Information That Led to the Arrest of His Son’s Killer

Daniel Schneider of St. Bernard Parish had no plans to become a criminal investigator. But when his son was murdered, and the police were not making any arrests, he took matters into his own hands.

“Like most people, when my son was murdered, I expected the police to do their job,” he said in an interview with WDSU in New Orleans. “But it didn’t really work out that way.”

While Schneider was grieving the loss of his son, he feared other parents may have to face similar pain if his son’s killer remained on the streets.

“I couldn’t stand to think not only would my son’s (murderer) get away with it, but he might kill again.”

While Schneider had concerns about the way the police handled the investigation into his son’s death, he said their jobs are not possible without the public giving information in criminal cases. He said he has compassion for the police, and knows they have a difficult job.

“I wasn’t thrilled with the job the police did, but I have some compassion for them,” Schneider said. “They have a big job and without the community helping them, we’re not going to cut down on these murders and car robberies, so stand up.”

4. Dan Schneider Started an Investigation Into Illegal Prescriptions After Filling Oxycontin Prescriptions

Dan Schneider realized he may have to keep doing his own investigations when he noticed an unsettling pattern at his pharmacy. Young men around the age of his son were coming to his pharmacy to fill prescriptions for Oxycontin, an addictive and powerful pain medication. Some of the young men died, he said in an interview with WDSU in New Orleans.

“I really didn’t want to get involved in any more investigations…but this doctor in my pharmacy, I just saw a lot of people who reminded me of my son,” Schneider said. “They were taking these high-powered things, and there were deaths. I was going to some of the funerals.”

His findings led to the prosecution of the person who was writing the illegal prescriptions, a notorious pill-mill doctor.

His investigation into illegal prescriptions helped sound the alarm on the opioid epidemic. He keeps boxes of evidence stored in his home with handwritten labels like “Danny Murder Investigation,” “Tunnel of Hope,” and “Dr. Cleggett WWEP,” The Times-Picayune reported.

“Those boxes also contain a story never before told about New Orleans in the early grips of what has become the worst drug epidemic in U.S. history,” wrote journalist Jed Lipinski. “They catalog the local rise of opioid addiction and the police, pushers and medical professionals who profited from it. They provide a glimpse into the frustrated efforts of federal and local investigators to thwart a crisis that few saw coming — and that was enabled by society’s desire for a miracle cure for pain. But most of all, the boxes hold the story of one man who, despite the odds against him, set out to right a wrong in his community and rewrite a dark chapter in his family’s life.”

Lipinski wrote on Twitter Feb. 5 he was proud of the pharmacist, who became his friend.

“Three years after I first met a quirky and impassioned country pharmacist from St. Bernard Parish, La, his story is now premiering as a @netflix
docuseries. Feeling very grateful and proud of my good friend Dan Schneider,” he wrote.

Dan Schneider said he hopes the Netflix documentary will inspire others to “stand up.” He acknowledged in a 2017 interview that his view of deaths related to addiction changed after his son died. He told the The Times-Picayune reported that when he heard about three young men who were shot to death while trying to buy drugs in the same area where his son was killed, he privately thought the victims should have known better, although he sympathized with their families. His son’s death changed his perception, and made him realize that drugs steal many aspects of a person’s life before leading to their death.

He had a mission in appearing on the Netflix documentary, “The Pharmacist.” He told WDSU in New Orleans he wants people to take action when they see something suspicious.

“I wasn’t thrilled with the job the police did, but I have some compassion for them,” Schneider said. “They have a big job and without the community helping them, we’re not going to cut down on these murders and car robberies, so stand up.”

READ NEXT: Notorious Pill Mill Doctor Jacqueline Cleggett: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know