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SALT LAKE CITY — A young Utah man accused of drugging a police officer's drink at a drive-thru sandwich shop hasn't been charged more than a week after his arrest, leading the man's attorney to question if investigators really have a case.
Layton Police Lt. Travis Lyman said Thursday investigators don't feel comfortable submitting the case to prosecutors until state crime lab results come back in the coming weeks to show what was in the drink.
Investigators are looking into all possible causes of the incident, but Lyman said police stand behind the arrest.
"We just have to have those results back from the state before we make any decisions," he said.
Tanis Ukena, 18, was arrested on Aug. 8 after police said initial tests of the lemonade the officer drank showed it had methamphetamine and THC. They said video surveillance from inside the Subway store showed Ukena was the only one who handled the drink, and that he spent an unusually long time preparing it.
Ukena denied putting anything in the drink to police but was arrested on suspicion of surreptitiously giving a poisonous substance, a felony. He bailed out.
Ukena's attorney, Randy Richards, told The Associated Press that Ukena is a good kid who doesn't have any motivation to target a police officer. Ukena and his parents declined an interview request, but Richards said the teenager has never possessed drugs and doesn't know how the drugs got into the drink.
Richards said he believes investigators are realizing they don't have the evidence to back the accusations. He said it's common for authorities to file drug-related charges based on the initial tests without waiting weeks for state crime lab results.
Richards also said the officer's description of feeling drugged and unable to find the gas pedal in his patrol car shortly after taking three sips of the drink seems unlikely unless the drink contained a lot of methamphetamine and THC.
The story gained national attention, with Ukena's mug shot sent out along with facts of a case that looked like the nation's latest example of retaliation against police in the wake of a number of officer-involved shootings.
Ukena has received death threats and nasty letters, Richards said. After graduating from high school last spring, he was planning to go to college to study mechanical engineering but those plans — and is his whole life — are on hold after the incident, Richards said.
"It's been horrible. You're looking at a kid who is working, doing everything he's supposed to be doing and suddenly he's America's Most Wanted," Richards said. "His reputation has been destroyed."
Ukena has not previously had any criminal run-ins with the law, according to Layton police and online state court records that reveal only three traffic infractions in the past two years.
Police are well within the time period allotted to pursue charges. Utah's statute of limitations allows four years for felonies. The Davis County Attorney's Office would review evidence sent in by police and make the ultimate decision about charges.
Subway officials didn't have any comment on the delay in charges. Subway spokesman Shawn Cook said last week that the company was shocked by the accusations and are cooperating with authorities.
The unnamed sergeant went to the hospital and was released the same night. He's back at work and in good health, Lyman said.