The owners of a Subway sandwich shop are suing the Layton City Police Department in federal court for waiting too long to publicly disavow false allegations that an employee drugged a police officer’s lemonade last year.
A Subway sandwich shop in Layton, Utah, filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the town and police department on Tuesday, alleging they wrongly accused an employee of drugging an officer’s drink last year.
In August 2016, Layton officers accused Tanis Ukena, an 18-year-old employee, of lacing a sergeant’s lemonade with methamphetamine and THC, a psychoactive compound found in marijuana.
Moments after taking a few sips of his drink, the unnamed officer reported that he felt impaired and had trouble driving and answering questions. An ion scanner test later showed the presence of drugs in the drink, but the lawsuit claims that the test that was conducted has a “known high false positive rate,” according to the Salt Lake Tribune.
Ukena was arrested and booked into the Davis County Jail on one count of surreptitiously administering a poisonous substance, a second degree felony. After that, Ukena received multiple death threats and Dallas Buttars and Kristin Myers, the franchise owners, said their business dropped 30 percent.
The story made national headlines, and Buttars and Myers said that several other employees quit after being grilled by police. In total, they claim their business lost $300,000 due to the incident.
“My life has been changed forever. It will never be the same,” Myers said, according to the Associated Press. “It’s always going to be known as the store that drugged the cop.”
The state crime lab conducted several tests of the drink and said the “initial test results could not be duplicated,” according to Deseret News. The police did not find any evidence the officer was drugged, even after conducting searches with a drug-sniffing dog and testing the officer’s blood and urine.
After two months, the state crime lab concluded that there was nothing illicit in the officer’s drink, and Layton police announced Ukena would not be charged.
The lawsuit alleges that the police department told reporters that the officer had been drugged “before it knew whether any crime had been committed, and before it knew whether anyone had in fact been poisoned,” according to the Salt Lake Tribune.
Robert Sykes, the attorney representing the franchise owners, claims the police had evidence that the officer was not drugged well before the tests came back from the state crime lab, yet they did nothing to clear the owners or employees.
“Don’t keep these people on the hook and don’t keep the public in ignorance for two months,” Robert Sykes, the attorney representing the franchise owners, said, according to Deseret News. “They may have had probable cause to arrest him. But they didn’t have license to defame him or other people, especially in light of what they knew. Especially in light of what they knew when they defamed him. They knew that there were no drugs found.”
Layton City Attorney Gary Crane said the officers did nothing wrong and that he was “very surprised” by the lawsuit.
“We stand behind our police officers 100 percent. I’ve gone over all of the evidence and the officers did their jobs in protecting not only the public, but individual businesses like Subway,” Crane said, according to Deseret News.
Ukena is currently serving a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The officer who became ill still works for the department. Police still do not know what caused the officer to become sickened that day.