Augusta, Maine – Police arrested a man after he crashed his car into a ditch and passed out from the impact caused by the deployed airbag, and they claimed they thought the bag of powder they found in the car’s glove compartment was heroin.
The vehicle is owned by Kevin Raymond Curtis, 57, and he told Central Maine that the powder was actually the cremated remains of his father, which he was storing in the vehicle until he received the urn he ordered.
However, when police found the ashes after the 2006 Chevrolet Impala crashed into a ditch and they saw the powdered substance in the glove box, they thought they had hit the jackpot with possession of nearly 50 grams of heroin.
At the time of the crash, the vehicle was being driven by Curtis’ friend, Jess Legendre, 31. He was on his way to the grocery store after he finished a 20-hour shift at work, and Curtis said that when the airbag deployed, a piece of debris landed in Legendre’s mouth and he began choking. The bag containing the ashes was also disrupted by the crash, and the contents spilled onto Legendre’s pants.
“The airbag hit him right straight in the face. He wasn’t breathing right and said his eyes were burning,” Curtis told Central Maine.
When officers arrived on the scene, they found a driver who was in distress, with a powdered substance on his pants that came from a bag in the glovebox of the car, and they immediately determined that he must have been in the middle of an overdose from heroin. Emergency responders arrived on the scene and they used Narcan, an opioid-overdose reversal drug, on Legendre in an attempt to revive him.
After Legendre was taken to the hospital for treatment, he was arrested and charged with operating after habitual offender revocation and falsifying physical evidence. However, he was not charged with any specific drug offenses because doctors found that he did not have illegal substances in his system, and the substance in the glovebox was actually cremated ashes.
Kennebec County Sheriff Ken Mason admitted that tests confirmed the substance appeared to be “human remains,” and insisted that storing it in the glovebox of a car was “a rather unusual manner in which to keep the remains of a loved one.”
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The ashes were finally returned to Curtis after more than 48 hours, and he told Central Maine that although his father died five years ago, he only recently received a portion of the ashes from his sister, and he ordered an urn to store them in permanently.
“I didn’t want them if they were in the house, the kids ripping them open and having them everywhere,” Curtis said, noting that his four children were shocked when they found out what happened. “The kids were really mad when they found out that (the police) took Grandpa, but I tried to make a joke of it. I said, ‘This is the first time he’s ever been in lockup’ and we’ll just get him out.”
While Curtis and his family are lucky to have received the majority of his father’s ashes back from police, this is not the first time officers have mistaken cremated remains for illegal drugs.
As The Free Thought Project reported last month, a heartbroken father who carried a vial of his dead daughter’s ashes with him everywhere he went, lost the majority of the substance when he was stopped for not having a front license plate, and the officer thought the vial contained drugs.
Anthony Butler told the Chicago Tribune that he does not remember specifically giving consent for a field drug test on the ashes, but he made it clear to the officer that the vial contained the ashes of his dead daughter, and he begged the officer not to dump them out.
While conducting the search, the officer put Butler in handcuffs and forced him to wait in the back of the patrol car. When a test confirmed that the white powdery substance was not narcotics, he let Butler go.
When Butler returned to his car, he found the vial on the console between his front seats and the inner cap was missing from it. The outer cap was not secure, and as soon as he picked it up, the remains of his daughter’s ashes spilled out all over his car.
“When I picked up the remains, the bottom half just fell to the bottom of the console,” Butler said. “Just the worst feeling in the world came over me, like, this isn’t happening.”