SALT LAKE CITY — A Subway shop where a worker was cleared of drugging a Utah police officer’s drink filed a lawsuit Wednesday saying police waited two months to publicly disavow the headline-making allegations despite internal evidence the officer had no drugs in his system.
The Subway shop owners said officers in Layton, Utah, knew within hours that blood and urine tests were negative, but a police spokesman nevertheless continued to cite early tests indicating the possible presence of THC and methamphetamine in the officer’s lemonade. Those results were never duplicated.
“My life has been changed forever. It will never be the same,” said co-owner Kristin Myers. “It’s always going to be known as the store that drugged the cop.”
Layton City Attorney Gary Crane said the department had to investigate after the officer returned to the station with serious symptoms. Police couldn’t publicly declare the worker had been cleared until receiving the results of extensive testing from the state crime lab.
Police responded to reporters’ questions about information in public documents, and stressed that the allegations didn’t reflect on the store, he said.
“You’ve got to investigate every angle,” he said.
Layton police declined to comment.
The story made national headlines and garnered speculation about the possible motive of the worker who prepared the drink amid growing animosity and distrust of police around the country in the wake of a number of officer-involved shootings.
The Subway owners say their business dropped 30 percent after a police spokesman told a reporter about the sergeant who reported feeling impaired, having trouble finding the brake pedal and struggling to answer questions after getting the drink in his patrol car on Aug. 8, 2016. He was briefly hospitalized, Crane said.
Several Subway employees also quit after police detectives grilled other workers for hours about the case even though the store cooperated with the investigation, franchise owners Dallas Buttars and Myers said in the lawsuit. They say the lost business, employee time and stigmatization cost them nearly $300,000.
Buttars and Myers said they asked Layton city officials to publicize the negative test results for weeks before police announced they’d cleared worker Tanis Ukena in October 2016, two months after his arrest.
It’s still a mystery what caused the serious symptoms the officer suffered that day, Crane said. The officer, whose name has not been released, remains employed with the department.
Ukena has said he received online death threats and hateful comments that made him afraid to leave his northern Utah home after the case became public. After being cleared, the top student and Eagle Scout who never had been in trouble said he was relieved but disappointed that police didn’t apologize.
That family has reached a resolution with the city, he said, though he wouldn’t give details.
Attorney Randy Richards has said his client, who is now serving a Mormon mission, had no reason to target a police officer and didn’t put anything in the drink. He didn’t immediately have comment on Wednesday’s lawsuit, and members of the Ukena family could not be reached.