This summer, a Saluda County deputy conducted a field test on a white substance he found on the hood of a car. The substance, now believed to be bird droppings, tested positive for cocaine. Today, the driver credits being a NCAA Division I quarterback for helping him challenge the field test and clear his name.
Driver’s safety measures raise suspicion
On a dark night this past July 31, Shai Werts was returning from a trip to his hometown of Clinton, South Carolina.
When the 21-year-old black man saw a Saluda County deputy’s lights flashing on a deserted two-lane rural road, Werts followed his mother’s advice and that of many county sheriff offices. He engaged his hazard lights, drove to a well-lit area, and called the dispatcher to confirm the stop’s authenticity.
Body-camera footage hints that these measures displeased the deputy, who was recorded saying Werts was “about to be [expletive] out of luck.” Werts was handcuffed and placed in the squad car.
White substance tested with two-dollar kit
Insisting the athlete had thrown something from the vehicle (a claim not supported by later searches), the officer scraped a white substance from the front of the car for testing.
The State Law Enforcement Division (SLED) doesn’t recommend field drug tests, partly because they routinely test positive for Tylenol, baking soda and just about any kind of plant material including chocolate, sugar, herbs and grass. The bird droppings field-tested positive for cocaine.
Athlete hopes to restore reputation as police investigate
SLED lab tests found nothing illegal in the bird droppings and the charges were dropped.
After dash and body-cam footage went public, the arresting deputy is under internal investigation. A Greenville newspaper reports the officer had resigned from his last job, apparently to avoid being fired for “conduct unbecoming an officer.”
Werts’ record will be expunged, and after a brief suspension he is back to playing football. “You want to be a household name for making plays on the field and doing the right things. Although I didn’t do anything wrong, I became a household name for all the wrong reasons.”