Is there anything more terrifying than being arrested for a crime you did not commit? Meet 64-year-old Daniel Rushing. Rushing was arrested and charged with possession of meth after Orlando police found Krispie Kreme Donut crumbs in his car.
On December 11, at roughly 1:00 pm, Rushing had just dropped off a neighbor for chemotherapy. Rushing takes his neighbor to chemotherapy every Friday.
After dropping off his neighbor, Rushing went to take an elderly church friend home from her job at the 7-Eleven store at 938 W. Colonial Drive. It was during that ride that Rushing’s views on our legal system would be forever changed.
Cpl. Shelby Riggs-Hopkins had been staking out the 7-Eleven due to heavy drug activity at the location. Riggs-Hopkins had been on the force for 8-years. She proceeded to pull Rushing over after he had failed to come to a complete stop when leaving the 7-Eleven and for driving 42 mph in a 30 mph zone.
Once Riggs-Hopkins had Rushing pulled over she saw that he had a conceal and carry permit, then when asked Rushing told the officer that he did have a gun. At that time Rushing was asked to step out of the vehicle.
Riggs-Hopkins asked if she could search Rushing’s vehicle, to which he agreed. Rushing’s felt he had nothing to worry about, so why not allow the officer to search his vehicle. Rushing was about to find out how wrong he was.
The officer noticed a suspicious substance on the floorboard of Rushing’s car. Using her “11-years of training,” Riggs-Hopkins knew that it was surely drugs she had found. She only needed to figure out if it was crack-cocaine, or meth?
“I recognized through my eleven years of training and experience as a law enforcement officer the substance to be some sort of narcotic.”
After finding one piece of the mystery substance, three more pieces were discovered. Initially, officers on the scene thought they had found crack-cocaine, but later determined that it was meth. They determined this through two roadside drug tests.
Rushing was arrested, then taken to jail where he was strip-searched, and held for 10-hours. He was released on a $2,500 bond. Three days later, his charges were dropped after the “meth” was sent to a drug lab.
As it turns out, the “meth” that Riggs-Hopkins found in Rushing’s vehicle was what Rushing had told her it was, crumbs from a Krispie Kreme Donut he had eaten in his car earlier that morning. The Orlando Sentinel reported that Rushing had tried to tell officers that the substance was doughnut crumbs, but apparently Riggs-Hopkins’ 11-years of training outweighed his argument.
While there is a clear problem with an officer who claims to have 11-years of training, but cannot tell the difference between doughnut crumbs and meth, that is not the main problem. Two roadside drug tests identified the crumbs as meth as well.
The NY Times released an article earlier this month describing how unreliable these tests are. The tests cost roughly $2.00 a piece and have seen little to no improvement since they were released in 1973.
In specific, the NY Times goes into detail on the chemical that is used to test for cocaine, cobalt thiocyanate. Cobalt thiocyanate is a pink liquid that turns blue when it comes in contact with cocaine. One major problem is that cobalt thiocyanate also turns blue when it comes in contact with about 80 different compounds. Methadone is known to trigger the blue reaction, along with some acne medications, and many commonly found house cleaning supplies.
Along with other compounds triggering the blue reaction, cold weather slows the process down, while hot weather speeds it up. Poor lighting and distracting lights, such as the red and blue lights on top of a police car, can also play a role in the officer’s ability to decide if the test has turned the color needed to conduct an arrest.
While there are no studies that show the error rate of these tests, in Florida, 21% of the substances entered as methamphetamine turned out to not be methamphetamine.
Rushing has hired a lawyer and is now suing the Orlando Police Department for his wrongful arrest and damages he endured. While it has not been announced how much they will be suing for, attorney William Ruffier says he expects to file the suit next month.