Cocaine or bird poop?
That’s a question the State Law Enforcement Division will try to answer after a white substance on the hood of a car led to charges for a college quarterback driving near Saluda.
The traffic stop happened about 9 p.m. on July 31.
According to a Saluda County Sheriff’s Office incident report posted to New York Post’s website, a deputy stopped a silver 2016 Dodge Charger that had been going 80 mph down Chappells Highway.
After stopping the vehicle, the officer noticed a white substance on the hood of the car that someone likely tried to clean with windshield washer fluid.
The driver of the vehicle, 21-year-old Shai Werts, insisted the substance was bird excrement that he tried to clean off at a car wash a few days earlier. Suspecting the substance was cocaine, the deputy conducted two field tests on the alleged poop that had positive results.
Werts, who graduated from Newberry and lists Clinton as his hometown, is a junior at Georgia Southern University. According to news reports, he’s attending practice but will sit out the season’s first game.
There have been several high profile cases of such tests returning false positives — such as the time crumbs from a glazed doughnut tested positive for meth, leading to the arrest, detention and subsequent settlement for a man who was stopped after driving someone to receive chemotherapy.
While no definitive study has shown what rate of field tests yield false positives, data ProPublica obtained from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement in 2016 showed “21 percent of evidence that the police listed as methamphetamine after identifying it was not methamphetamine, and half of those false positives were not any kind of illegal drug at all.”
The sheriff’s office has sent the substance to SLED’s crime lab for testing to verify the results. Crime lab results are more accurate and less susceptible to human error. Those results are pending.
The deputy wrote that he “did not have appropriate tools to gather the substance but scraped the substance into a (sic) evidence bag and transported it back to the Sheriff’s Office. The white substance was placed into a heat-sealed bag and sent to SLED for further testing.”
Werts was charged with possession of less than one gram of cocaine and cited with speeding.