NEW ORLEANS — The story of a St. Bernard Parish pharmacist, who solved his 22-year-old son’s murder after a drug-related shooting while also shining a light on the deadly opioid epidemic, is far from over.
Almost a year after coming out on Netflix, Dan Schneider is being approached by Hollywood. He is also set to star in a new podcast. It’s notoriety that all started with the most difficult moment of his life but the man known as “the pharmacist” isn’t losing sight of a much bigger mission.
Sitting in a conference room on the third floor of the Ranch Studio in Chalmette, Schneider reads from a handful of specially selected letters and emails.
“Hi Mr. Schneider, first of all. I wanted to say that you are really a warrior,“ one reads. “Dear Mr. Schneider, after watching the Netflix documentary, “The Pharmacist” you have restored my faith in humankind,” reads another.
The letters are from here at home but also from all over the world.
“I am from St. John Parish. LaPlace, Louisiana,” reads one. “I am from Canada, Montreal,” reads another. “I truly admire you, Elizabeth from Scotland,” reads yet another.
People confide in Schneider. Their words paint the picture of addiction, but also of hope.
“I was addicted for 18 years and went to prison twice. November makes five years clean. Not even a drink or a cigarette” reads another letter.
These stories are just a few of the thousand or more letters Schneider has responded to since Netflix turned his story into a docu-series streamed millions of times. The show follows the St. Bernard pharmacist on his mission to solve his son, Daniel “Danny” Schneider Jr’s murder following a drug-related shooting in the 9th Ward and how he helped bring down a New Orleans East Pill Mill in his fight against the opioid epidemic.
“Unfortunately, I couldn’t save my son but maybe because of this I can save others,” said Schneider, speaking to WWLTV’s Paul Dudley. “And that’s the mission I am still on.”
The story for Schneider begins at 2 o’clock in the morning on April 14th, 1999.
“We get a loud knock at the door. It’s two policemen. They ask us to sit down and tell us that our son has been shot to death,” said Schneider. “I’ve got to come to the realization that my son is dead and I’ve got to come to the realization that he was attempting to buy drugs and the stigma back then was horrible. I participated in the stigma. I didn’t think my son was involved in drugs at all.”
Schneider went to the NOPD back then but he said it seemed as if the police were treating his dead son as the killer.
“So I knew they really weren’t going to do much investigating so I went out myself and said ‘if they aren’t going to do it’ I am going to do it.”
Schneider said he made a deal with God that if he could find the strength to find son’s killer he would go on a mission to educate parents and kids about the dangers of opioids.
“With the opioid crisis unfolding before my eyes I felt like I had to do something about it,” said Schneider and again with no help from the authorities I took it upon myself to go out and investigate and was eventually successful in shutting down one of the biggest pill mill operators in the country.”
Netflix isn’t the only one interested in the story. The story is so captivating that David Permut, the producer behind “Hacksaw Ridge”, has approached Schneider about making a movie. Though Schneider jokes that he is not sure about the lead actor whose name is being tossed around.
“Someone mentioned Brad Pitt,” said Schneider. “My daughter said there is no way Brad Pitt could play you, maybe John Goodman...which I'll take John Goodman, ok.”
Schneider says Permut flew him out to California to talk about the movie but a deal is far from finalized. There’s no screenplay or even a book to go off of but what is coming together is a new podcast produced by the Ranch Studio.
“We looked at him and said you have a crusade Dan,” said Jason Waguespack with the Ranch studios. “How is it that we can help you on this crusade that we are very passionate about which is the opioid epidemic which we have in our country and so we decided to create a podcast about that and as we did that we realized there was more to the story of the Netflix docu-series that wasn’t told.”
Schneider says the podcast is going to include a number of stories that weren’t included in the Netflix docu-series. It’s all very exciting but Schneider has not forgotten his deal with God. He is using the fame to promote his non-profit, Tunnel of Hope.
“I am trying to build this large registry so when I meet with these politicians, and they’ll listen to me now ok, I want to be able to say look this isn’t just about me and losing my son and you showing me sympathy and you showing me attention it’s about the million people behind me that have lost kids,” said Schneider.
Schneider is looking to add a million names to this list --- real people impacted by the crisis -- who will write politicians just like they write him.
“The letters have reinvigorated this 70-year-old guy to try and make a difference,” said Schneider.
Since the year his son was killed more than half a million Americans have died from opioids. It is this grieving father’s wish that no one feels the pain he still feels every day.
The producers of the podcast are looking to have something available for the public to download by early summer or late fall.
You can learn more about joining the registry at Tunnelofhope.org