Earlier this month, Utah police arrested an 18-year-old Subway worker on charges that he drugged a police officer by placing THC and methamphetamine in his drink, causing the officer to become sick and hospitalized.
The story quickly went viral with the media taking the word of police at face value with many commenters calling for the death penalty for Tanis Ukena.
Commenters also blamed the incident on Black Lives Matter, even though the teen does not have a single black Facebook friend nor does he appear to be involved in any type of activism.
And police throughout the country were quick to pin the incident as the latest chapter in the mythical War on Police.
But the story did not add up because not only did Ukena come across as a straight-laced, sports-loving Mormon teen on his Facebook page (and yes, we know that can be deceiving), but the Layton Police Department seemed to have flimsy evidence at best.
Now, almost two weeks after his arrest, Layton police have yet to formally charge Ukena for surreptitious administration of a substance, a second-degree felony, indicating they don’t have much of a case, according to the Associated Press.
After all, they based their arrest on a surveillance video at the Subway showing Ukena taking an “unusual amount of time” preparing the cop’s lemonade as the officer sat in the drive-thru window in full uniform and in a marked car.
They also said the video shows Ukena – “for some unknown reason” – walking away from the drive-thru window, out of camera view, before returning to finish pouring the drink.
Although Layton police hyped up the arrest, they never released the video, which is something cops always do when they have solid evidence of a crime.
In other words, the video does not show Ukena placing anything inside the drink. Nor did they find any THC or methamphetamine on his possession.
Layton police also they used an ion scanner to determine the drink contained methamphetamine and THC, which is the active ingredient in marijuana.
However, ion scanners have long been proven to be unreliable, producing false positive results, especially when it comes to marijuana and methamphetamine, according to one study.
One drawback of IMS technology is that it measures drug particulates down to the nanogram, identifying ‘false positives frequently (SCA Inc., 2001). In examining the practical reliability of detection by IMS units in a laboratory and prison setting, one study found that cocaine was the only drug that was reliably detected, while heroin and amphetamine were poorly detected. Detection capability was also found for the prescription drug temazepam (Sheldon et al., 1998). IMS units most effectively detect powdered or liquid forms of drugs; the finer the powder the greater the likelihood of detection. This renders other forms of drugs such as pills and larger particles (i.e. marijuana), less likely to be detected (Butler, 2002).
Ukena has denied the allegations, even though police point out he admits he was the only one who prepared the cop’s drink. He bailed out of jail after his family posted a $10,000 bond.
The cop, whose name has not been released, claimed the drink “tasted funny” after taking a few sips, according to initial media reports.
“The (sergeant) began feeling the effects of being drugged,” the report says. “While approaching an intersection that had a red light, he had difficulty getting his foot to move to the brake pedal. (He) drove to the Layton Police Department, where he was observed to have signs of impairment. He was unable to process information and drifted off, and was unable to focus on questions being asked of him.”
But anybody familiar with edible cannabis knows it takes about 45 minutes to begin feeling the effects of THC. And methamphetamine is a stimulant, which would produce the opposite effect of what the officer was feeling.
Layton police also said a separate test also “tested positive for narcotics,” but do not elaborate if that was a blood test conducted on the officer himself.
If that’s the case, then it’s possible the cop drugged himself and needed a scapegoat to blame it on.
As of now, police say they are waiting for results from a state laboratory before they proceed with the case, but even if the lemonade does come back containing the alleged drugs, that is still no evidence that the teen was responsible for placing them there.
Unless we have a confession or solid video evidence as well as video evidence that police did not drug the drink themselves, then Ukena should never be charged, let alone convicted.