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Winston Armani, Deseret News
Supporters crowd a Subway restaurant in Layton on behalf of Tanis Ukena, who was absolved last week of putting THC in a Layton police sergeant's lemonade.

LAYTON — For Tanis Ukena, going to work had never felt as good as it did Tuesday.

"It's really nice to be back," Ukena said as customers behind him stood in a line that filled the Subway restaurant.

Ukena's name was cleared last week when it was announced that test results contradicted allegations by Layton police that he had laced an officer's lemonade with THC while working the Subway drive-thru.

Ukena was arrested on Aug. 8, but the store managers promised he would have his job back when the case was cleared.

On Tuesday, the store made good on its promise and Ukena reported for work for the first time since the investigation started.

"I'm happy to just be out and be able to do something," he said. "It's been nice to be able to come and work and be able to make some money."

Ukena is saving up for his mission to Utica, New York, for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He reports to the Missionary Training Center on Nov. 9.

Ukena was originally scheduled to leave for his mission in August, but his arrest derailed those plans.

"It was somewhat depressing to be really close. I was like 15 days away at that point," he said. "I was all packed and stuff. I was all ready to go."

Many of Ukena's supporters packed the Subway on Tuesday to give him encouragement and make donations intended to compensate for the roughly two months of work he missed.

The fundraiser came as a surprise to Ukena.

"I've never seen it this busy," he said. "It's nice to see so many people coming in to support me. … I'm not sure I'll ever be able to pay Subway back, especially for today."

Layton police originally alleged that surveillance video supported their suspicion that Ukena laced the lemonade of one of the department's sergeants when he went through a drive-thru at the restaurant, 1142 E. state Route 193.

The officer, who reported feeling heavily impaired within minutes, was treated at Davis Hospital and Medical Center.

An ion scanner test yielded positive results for THC and meth in the lemonade that Ukena had filled for the sergeant, investigators said at the time. But further testing at the Utah State Crime Lab was "unable to confirm that contaminates were in the officer's drink," Layton police said in a statement last week.

The agency, which declined to comment Tuesday, has not so far provided any other explanations as to what may have sickened the sergeant.

Ukena said he still hasn't received an apology from Layton police.

"It is disappointing that they aren't claiming the responsibility for their mistake," he said.

Ukena's family has said they are considering a lawsuit, but allowing him to focus on his mission is their primary concern.

After he was bailed out of jail, Ukena rarely left his neighborhood for two months, he said. He usually stayed at home. Employment was hard to come by. A firestorm of anger toward him ran rampant online.

Since the case against him was dropped, the world has opened up to him again.

"It's nice to be free," Ukena said. "I've been kind of chained down."

Rather than fixate on what went horribly wrong for him two months ago, Ukena seemed content to bask in the outpouring of love shown to him Tuesday.

"It's been nice having people come through (the line) and telling me, 'Good job for keeping your head up through all this,'" he said. "It's huge to see how many people are here to support me."

Contributing: Nicole Vowell

Twitter: benlockhartnews