Police

Cops Mistake Cat Litter for Meth in 'Massive' Drug Seizure

Harris County Sheriff's Office credited discovery to deputies' "powers of observation," but blamed the error on field tests.

|

HCSO

In December, sheriff's deputies in Harris County stopped Ross LeBeau after he allegedly made a right turn without coming to a complete stop. They said LeBeau admitted to having a small amount of marijuana in his car after they told him they could smell it. The deputies detained LeBeau and searched his car, where they say they found 252 grams of meth, which the man denied knowing about.

Police tut-tutted the importance of "routine traffic stops" after making the arrest, and released a mugshot of LeBeau and a photo of the "drugs on the table."

"This is another example how a routine traffic stop turned into a significant narcotics arrest in our community and may have kept our children and loved ones free from being introduced to drugs," the sheriff's office said in a press release. "Deputy Aguilar and other deputies are challenged on a daily basis to enforce the law using not only their knowledge and expertise, but their powers of observation to take criminals off the street."

The deputies' "powers of observation," however, ended up being off the mark. After the alleged meth went to a lab for testing, authorities discovered it was actually cat litter. Or, as the local ABC affiliate put in in the headline of their online story, "Man's meth arrest dismissed because he didn't have meth, he says," although police admit the substance wasn't meth.

Police say they acted appropriately because two field tests told them the substance was meth (but did not explain what additional "powers of observation" previously mentioned confirmed their finding), while LeBeau's attorney blamed a lack of spending. "Ultimately it might be bad budget-cutting testing equipment they need to re-evaluate," he said.

The sheriff's office insisted in a statement that "all indications show that the deputies followed basic procedures and followed established protocol related to this incident" and that LeBeau "failed to identify the substance" during the investigation. LeBeau says his father left the cat litter, in a sock, in his car.

While police wanted this story to be an example of why there ought to be routine traffic stops, it's a better example of why there ought to be fewer of them, and of the danger of overzealousness about non-violent offenses as well as the irresponsible way police tend to advance in the press a narrative centered around the presumed guilt of their suspects. LeBeau says he lost work and is working to clear his name. Police have apparently not apologized to him—he told ABC he'd like one.

h/t Rich

NEXT: Priebus Says Trump Accepts Intel Community's Russia Conclusions, Obama Insists He Didn't Underestimate Putin, Red Nova Could Occur Within Five Years: A.M. Links

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. Police have apparently not apologized to him?he told ABC he’d like one.

    One what? Editor needed on Aisle 8!

    1. He’d like an apologize, duh.

      1. He might as well ask for a pony, or an edit button.

    2. You know, “one”.

  2. Please tell me they tried snorting it first.

    1. I want to find out they seized 3 pounds of kitty litter and only reported the half-pound – and now there’s some pissed off drug dealers wanting to know what’s up with this shit the cops tried selling them as meth.

      1. Dealers aren’t that stupid. Only cops could look at cat litter and think that it in any way remotely resembles meth.

        1. There is some that could be confused for some kind of crystallized drug.

          http://img.diytrade.com/cdimg/…..litter.jpg

      2. Who the hell travels around with just over 8oz of cat litter, when it’s shipped in 20lb bags?

        1. “LeBeau says his father left the cat litter, in a sock, in his car.”

          Some answers only raise more questions.

          1. The abrasive effect of the crystals supply stimulation, and then the cat litter absorbs the ejaculate allowing for several reuses before changing it.

            1. Not sure if you just lit the sugarfree, crusty juggler or warty signal there, dude.

            2. .. or maybe STEVE SMITH

              1. Why not all four?

                1. Sounds like the cast for a new blockbuster Hollywood Extravaganza.

                  1. And introducing:
                    Steve Smith as STEVE SMITH

                    1. They’d need a powerful adversary.

                      I’d propose Dunphy!

                  2. Sounds like the cast for a new blockbuster Hollywood Extravaganza.

                    A Ghostbusters remake i’d actually watch.

                    1. Warty would tie the ghosts into pretzel knots, STEVE SMITH would rape them…a lot, SugarFree would simply show them one of his stories and Crusty would accept their surrender.

          2. Maybe for traction if the car gets stuck?

            1. A sockfull isn’t going to cover the ground under more than one, maybe two tires. Last time my buddy got his car stuck in my drainage culvert, we used a big scrap of carpet. Probably not that helpful for keeping in the trunk, well, unless you never use your trunk.

          3. Probably was using it as a ghetto dehumidifier. The crystal type of cat litter does a passable job of drying out a car that maybe had a window open during a rain storm, for example.

            1. That’s probably more likely in Texas than my idea.

            2. Good call. I was going to say snow traction like Zeb, living in Ohio I keep it on hand all the time – but you would need at least 5 pounds of it, not 8 ounces.

            3. That is what they said in the article.

        2. Someone with 8 oz cats

          1. 8 oz of ten cats.

        3. I read another article that said he uses it to reduce fog in his car. I am assuming that it absorbs moisture? The sock would kind of make sense then.

        4. Apparently it absorbs excess moisture and prevents window fogging.

          1. So not only does he spend time in jail, but when he gets out his windows have all fogged up? Harsh.

            1. He’s going to be arrested for having his window obscured. Those laws were meant for window tinting, but Police can’t follow the heart of the law and let criminal scum get away.

        5. About Number 6 who said, “Who the hell travels around with just over 8oz of cat litter, when it’s shipped in 20lb bags?”

          Look everybody, it’s a blame the victim copsucker/cocksucker. My apologies to cocksuckers that only suck cock.

          If that is sarc, it’s way weak and requires a tweak (see edit button). My comment stands, for others if not the author, because I know there are buyers for the above.

          “Although LeBeau says the accusation caused him to lose work, he doesn’t blame the deputies.”
          Me thinks that 3 days in the pokey was not enough for this dolt with a conclusion like that.

          1. I could just as easily ask who would be carrying 8oz of meth around in a sock.

            8oz of silica gel *might* make some fucin’ sense though.

          2. Maybe he’s just saying that because he’s worried about what they’ll “find” next time.

      3. I can imagine the look on the dealers face when the stupid ape pig slits open a big bag of cat litter on the dealers table. The stupid pig beaming with pride.

    2. And that cats have been sent to rehab.

  3. “Mistake”

  4. Police say they acted appropriately because two field tests told them the substance was meth…

    I wish my internal policy of punching everyone I see in the dick shielded me from accusations of inappropriate behavior.

  5. Harris County is Texas, right?

    Anyway, can he sue the cops for telling the press he’s a meth dealer who endangers children?

    1. Of course he can.

      It won’t go anywhere, but he can always have a lawyer file the claim.

    2. This is America. You can always sue. What he can’t do is win. And after filing, his car might accidentally be towed and his house burgled.

  6. So what was the street value of the litter?

    1. 40 grand

  7. Good on Ed for the h/t.

    Glad to see that the hat tips aren’t extinct.

  8. Police say they acted appropriately because two field tests told them the substance was meth

    I hope they’ve discontinued using these “tests”?

    I feel like the purpose of these “field tests” is just to yield positive results. Why not just use a magic 8 ball?

      1. They could get a special “law enforcement issue” magic 8 ball that only returned “Yes”.

        1. Drug dogs and these field tests.

    1. There have been quite a few stories about field tests for drugs yielding completely erroneous results, over many years. They will keep using them unless they are forced to stop.

  9. But just think, if they did not stop this Kitty Litter dealer now then next he will move up to trafficking Cat Nip!

    1. Don’t be silly, Cat Nip is the gateway drug to crystal litter.

  10. What kind of “field test” gives a false positive for meth when tested on cat litter?

    1. Maybe the same one that tests positive for GHB when you test soap. This isn’t the first story like this I’ve seen.

      1. Well FML.

    2. COPS ARE HEROES, OK? WHY DO YOU HATE COPS?

      1. Cops are under fire right now. Why are we making these field tests a priority?

        1. It is hard to conduct a field test under fire.

    3. The same one that identifies soap, tea, and Krispy Kreme glaze (and those are only the ones I can remember offhand) as positive for meth (or GHB, or crack cocaine, or pot).

      1. Well, maybe soap and tea are unreasonable, but Krispy Kreme’s are definitely intimately related to pot.

        1. I don’t really get Krispy Kreme’s success. If their product is not consumed within five minutes of being produced, it stops being any good. If left overnight – forget it.

          Though that may be the secret – forcing people to come back and buy more because the old stock has gone bad.

          1. I think they are just a regional curiosity in most of the country. I know where I live they have an unusual cycle of building some stores. All of them going out of business. Laying nascent for ~3 years or so. Then coming back and building more stores.

            People get excited because they haven’t had one in awhile, and then stop going once they remember that it’s pretty, eh.

          2. Donuts aren’t supposed to be good for more than a day. Fried stuff and pastry doesn’t usually keep well.

            If your doughnut is still good after a day or two, there is something wrong.

          3. Krispy Kremes suck even when fresh.

            1. Amen, KK. They are well nasty

          4. I’ve never actually had Krispy Kreme doughnuts.

            What I don’t get is all the Dunkin Donuts love. And they seem to have driven all the real doughnut places out of business where I live.

            1. Supposedly they have good coffee.

              Although it just seems like “coffee” to me.

              Now this is coming from a guy who drinks Folger’s and doesn’t mind, so YMMV.

              1. Their coffee was good compared to what you’d get at most cheap restaurants or gas stations 20 years ago. Now that decent coffee is more widely available, it’s really nothing special.

                1. It is scaldingly hot when served, and providing that they serve it in paper rather than those nasty styrofoam cups, you get a reasonable dose of caffeine with tolerable flavor, and it’s consistently ‘OK’.

                  But that’s about all you can say for it. I can’t imagine why anyone wants to take away bags of the beans so you can experience the delights of DD’s coffee at home though.

            2. This. There are two types of doughnuts:

              1. High quality ones from your local bakery.
              2. Krispy Kreme when the Hot Dougnut (the H was out at my local in Louisville for years) Now sign is lit. It helps to be a bit drunk too.

            3. Anti-Starbucks. It’s a different large corporation to buy sub-standard coffee from.

              Although, the food is certainly better than Starbucks. Not great in an absolute sense, but gourmet compared to the cardboard garbage Starbuck serves.

            4. I love Dunkin’s donuts. On many of them, they only glaze one side, which means they’re not just a big fucking ball o’ sugar like Krispy Kremes. And the French crullers. Fuckin-a, those are good.

    4. All of them.

    5. The test gives whatever result the cops says it gives. Who are you to question the police?

      1. Seriously, that’s why we have courts and stuff. If people are just allowed to start challenging the police out in the field we’ll basically just have anarchy.

  11. Procedures were followed. Cat litter was misidentified.

  12. Publix had a buy one get one sale on cat litter, so I bought 2 20 lb jugs.

    That’s enough to get me arrested for trafficking, isn’t it.

    1. And you’re twice as suspect if you actually own a dog.

  13. LeBeau’s attorney blamed a lack of spending

    Even defense attorneys are in on the game? smh

    1. “The cops abused their authority? They must need more money!”

      1. They were told “Remember to abuse your minority” and missed it by that much.

        Hey Cops: Never put salt in your eyes.

    2. In some places it’s not good to antagonize your local Keystone cops.

      1. You mean there is A place where that isn’t true?

      2. Why are they outside of Pennsylvania in the first place?

  14. What the hell does a half pound of meth cost anyway? Didn’t it seem a bit odd to them that someone would be carrying it around in a sock?

    1. Didn’t it seem a bit odd to them that someone would be carrying it around in a sock?

      Given some of the actual smuggling methods used for real drugs, not really.

  15. The article says he lost work not his job.

    1. Did he report it to the lost and found?

      1. “I wouldn’t say I’ve been missing it.”
        -Peter Gibbons

  16. “This is another example how a routine traffic stop turned into a significant narcotics arrest in our community and may have kept our children and loved ones free from being introduced to drugs,”

    The streets can be made safe if only you liberal pansies would stop clinging to that outdated Fourth Amendment nonsense. The Constitution is not a suicide pact!

  17. I would think that “field test is known to register false positives for meth when testing common household materials” would be a much bigger deal. I’d also like to know if this is one of those issues where the test manufacturer knows the test isn’t to be used for what the police use it for, but they use it anyway.

    1. False positives are a good thing. They give the cops an opportunity to ruin someone’s life. Look at this guy. He lost his job, he’s labeled a drug dealer, and who knows what other shit he has to deal with. Cops don’t care if the person is guilty or not. Only that they ruined their life.

      1. When cops are called to present their metrics, they can’t exactly point to all the law-abiding citizens who they couldn’t arrest.

      2. I know, I know. I’m looking at this from the perspective of wanting law enforcement to do a good job enforcing laws, not from what allows for the maximum abuse and minimum accountability. I really should know better by now.

  18. (KETK) A Houston man has been cleared of a drug charge after authorities realized he’d been arrested for possession of kitty litter.

    “They thought they had the biggest bust in Harris County,” Ross LeBeau said. “This was the bust of the year for them.”

    The link from Drudge was better.

  19. The sheriff’s office insisted in a statement that “all indications show that the deputies followed basic procedures and followed established protocol related to this incident” and that LeBeau “failed to identify the substance” during the investigation. LeBeau says his father left the cat litter, in a sock, in his car.

    Any sane person with an IQ over 17 should be asking whether those “procedures” might need to be done away with.

    It looks to me like the old man was packing an illegal homemade sap. Who was he going to hit with it?

  20. “Police . . . released a mugshot of LeBeau and a photo of the ‘drugs on the table'”.

    That’s probably defamation. The police are saying everything they need to say to make it look like an honest mistake–without malice–because malice is so important in a defamation case.

    It’s horrible that someone’s face should be put into the media and effectively called a meth dealer when he was only guilty of possessing a bag of cat litter. Now, every time anyone google’s this man’s name, they’re likely to see him associated with meth..

    The man went on TV to counter that–so people will, hopefully, also, see that he’s been exonerated. If I were writing this story, however, I’d have tried to avoid publishing this man’s photograph with this story altogether. If someone’s name and picture needs to be published with this story, maybe find an image of the sheriff(s) who put this innocent man’s image in the media and falsely accused him of being a meth dealer.

  21. Back in the old days, they used to put people in the stocks as punishment for a crime. The puritans used the stocks for people awaiting trial, too, but we’re much crueler than the puritans in our own way. They had nothing like the internet that makes the humiliation of public view permanent like we do. Today, it’s hard to escape the public humiliation of merely being accused of something and the police putting our mugshots online forever–and the government uses that threat of public humiliation as an effective means of social control.

    We should be careful to never play into that, and people should be free to waive their right to a public trial like they’re free to waive their right to an attorney, their right to a jury, or their right to remain silent.

    1. It was one thing when arrest and criminal records were public information, but you had to actually go to the police or court house to get it.

      1. I used to get some prurient satisfaction when reading the local newspaper ‘police blotter’ every week, but I’m becoming more and more convinced nowadays that even that level of reporting is inappropriate.

  22. My guess is that most people familiar with these tests are going to tell you they’re highly accurate – they do have a 100% success rate in terms of never yielding a false negative, after all. As far as anybody knows. The cops have never arrested somebody for carrying an innocuous substance that further lab tests revealed to be illicit drugs, have they? So if they’ve got a 50% chance of yielding a false positive and a zero percent chance of a false negative, that’s still a combined 75% accuracy rate, ain’t it? It’s not like they’re just flipping a coin. But a lot of people don’t understand math or the difference between a false negative and a false positive.

    1. That’s why you use precision, recall and F1 scores. Not perfect, but attempts to capture that.

  23. Catsby Jr ? 2 days ago
    When they come for my kitty litter, they will have to pry it from my cold dead paws.

  24. This…. is not meth

    ::throws used kitty litter at cops::

  25. LeBeau says he lost his job and is working to clear his name. Police have apparently not apologized to him?he told ABC he’d like one.

    And people in hell want ice water. Apologizing would them to actually recognize and admit that they fucked up. Never gonna happen.

    1. Cops, and government in general, cannot admit to making mistakes. You see, people must trust government for government to function. To do this government must be infallible. It is our god you know. If government ever admitted to making a mistake, then it would cease to be infallible and lose its status as a secular god. People would cease to worship it, public trust would erode, and anarchy would ensue. All from one apology. That’s all it takes.

  26. I mean, it could have been *really good* cat litter.

    1. Using it to attract pussy?

  27. in other news, area pet shelters are reporting a large rise in meth addicted felines…

  28. http://photographyisnotacrime……it-online/

    I dont think incompetence is Harris county law enforcement’s biggest problem.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.