A Utah couple has slammed police from the town of Fort Chaffee, Aransas after they were put behind bars for two months over a faulty drug test.
Wendell Harvey and his wife Gale Griffin opened up about their harrowing jail experience on Monday (Nov. 21) with KUTV News. The couple are truck drivers who previously transported explosives for the military. That came to an end in May when they were falsely accused of cocaine possession. After traveling to Fort Chaffee, the couple was pulled over by officer Chuck Bowen and asked about three baggies filled with liquid in their truck. Harvey (who is a former police officer) explained they were baking soda packets to treat Griffin’s upset stomach. From there, things took a turn for the worse.
“We have no relationship with anyone who deals drugs,” Harvey said. Bowen tested the liquid and determined it was a controlled substance. “He said, ‘You have over $3,000 in cocaine,’” Griffin added. “I told him, ‘I’ve never had two nickels to rub together, are you crazy?’ Then [the police officer] said, ‘I’ve never had two nickels to rub together either, but now I’m the owner of your truck.”
Harvey and Griffin had their truck taken away, arrested and placed on a $10,000 bail. Because they couldn’t afford it, they spent two months in jail, lost their security clearances and reunited with a heavily damaged truck. “I felt cut off from reality; it felt very strange — someplace that doesn’t feel like America to me,” Harvey said about his time in jail. “It was just crawling with bugs — it was unbelievably cold, blasting, blasting cold air,” Griffin added.
The charges were later dropped in July when the Public Defender’s office tested the substance and determined it was not cocaine. The initial drug test used was one many officers use in the force, a $2 item called the Scott Reagent Field test. “They are not infallible; they are subject to misreading,” Greg Parrish with the public defender’s office said.
Harvey expressed his concern for the future of these inaccurate tests. “If they did what they did to us, you know — two law-abiding citizens, there’s no telling how many mistakes they’ve made,” he said.
The couple is in danger of losing their home and Griffin missed her mother’s funeral, unable to pay for travel. Still looking for work, a GoFundMe was started to help the grandparents get back on their feet and repair their truck.
Check it out here.