During a late-night traffic stop on a rural South Carolina highway, controversy arose when a Saluda County Sheriff’s Office deputy utilized an unreliable field test to identify cocaine as a white substance found on the car’s hood.
Turns out — just as Shai Werts, Georgia Southern University’s starting quarterback, told the deputy repeatedly — the substance was bird poop.
Based on personnel documents acquired by The Greenville News this month through the state’s Freedom of Information Act, Browder is still actively serving and is not being penalized for his conduct on the roadside three months ago. However, Deputy Charles Allen Browder III was found innocent according to an internal inquiry carried out by the Saluda sheriff’s department.
After being charged with cocaine possession, Werts spent a night in jail and was briefly suspended from his football team. However, he was cleared of the charges when no evidence of cocaine was found in the official results from the State Law Enforcement Division’s drug lab.
Deputy Chief County Saluda, Toby Horne, stated that in the wake of the incident that drew national attention, the sheriff’s office in Saluda has made a fundamental shift in how it determines whether a substance may be an illegal drug by no longer solely relying on field drug tests.
“Now we will no more levy accusations if it is an unfamiliar substance,” Horne stated. “We will await laboratory findings to return.”
The investigation conducted by News found that many common products in August have unreliable and wildly inaccurate tests for positive results, according to experts and scientists. Even the sheriff’s office has decided to stop using these tests altogether, as they are deemed ineffective.
Professor Omar Bagasra, a biology professor at Claflin University, directs the university’s forensic lab, which conducts field tests on drugs. In the case of Werts, the lab used a field test to detect the presence of cocaine in the air.
The police stop of Werts was recorded by footage from bodycams and dashcams at the location.
When Browder initially pulled over for a traffic stop, deputies searched Werts’ car and placed him in handcuffs in his vehicle patrol.
As Browder observed, the substance turned pink, which could indicate the presence of cocaine. Browder proceeded to crush small vials of chemicals from the kit, then scraped a portion of the white powdery substance into a plastic bag provided by the test-kit. He made the decision to employ a drug field test kit in order to examine the white substance that coated a section of Werts’ car hood.
The previous day, at a petrol station, Werts attempted to clean his windscreen and persistently insisted to the officer that the substance on the scene was avian excrement.
As per the court documents, Werts has opted for a trial by jury for the citation and was issued a ticket for exceeding the speed limit, although the drug accusation against him was dismissed.
The attorney for Werts’ directed requests for comment on Monday and Friday, and Southern Georgia Sports Relations contacted News The through media.
The sheriff’s department is utilizing significantly fewer of the $2 roadside drug field tests since the Werts incident, Horne mentioned.
He stated, “Sheriffs will gather the drug specimens and await the drug laboratory report from SLED prior to initiating any legal actions, in regards to all other instances.” He expressed, “If drug paraphernalia, packaging, or the substance itself gives deputies reason to suspect it is an illicit drug, they should utilize their expertise to make the decision whether or not to press charges at the scene.” He mentioned, “Deputies have been directed to depend on their training to ascertain if a substance is likely connected to drugs, rather than relying on the drug field tests.”
The examination conducted by Greenville News uncovers that the university’s quarterback was falsely charged with possessing cocaine, which ultimately proved to be bird excrement. The quarterback voices his opinion as the scrutiny of the case continues.
According to Horne, the sheriff’s department concluded that Browder had not breached any regulations and thoroughly examined all accessible video recordings, which encompassed an evaluation of the traffic halt. Additionally, an internal investigation into the traffic stop was initiated. Horne mentioned that the sheriff’s office had received public grievances regarding the management of the occurrence and the way Werts was treated during the traffic stop.
As per records from the South Carolina Criminal Justice Academy, Browder had previously chosen to step down instead of being dismissed from the Lexington County Sheriff’s Office due to inappropriate behavior as an officer.
I deeply regret that I made some errors in the application letter accompanying my application to the Saluda County Sheriff’s Office, which resulted in my termination from the Lexington County Browder Sheriff’s Office. I mistook the responsibility for the job and left it incomplete, and then I took full responsibility for these mistakes.