AURORA, Colo. (KDVR) — A Colorado police officer kept his job and was not charged with driving under the influence after he was found drunk inside his patrol car while on duty.
According to a general offense report obtained by KDVR, on March 29, 2019, officers were dispatched to the area of East Mississippi Avenue and South Tower Road on a welfare check. Dispatch was told an unconscious person — possibly an Aurora Police Department officer — was inside a car outside Buckley Air Force Base.
When officers arrived, they found Aurora firefighters were already at the scene. APD Agent Nate Meier was in the driver’s seat of an unmarked Ford Taurus patrol car stopped in the middle of Mississippi Ave., according to the report. The engine was still running.
“Agent Meier appeared to be disoriented and did not appear to be responsive to instructions from (Aurora Fire Rescue) to open the door to the vehicle. After the wheels were chocked, decision was made to break the passenger side window to the vehicle, which was done by AFR,” an officer who responded to the scene said in the report.
The officer went on to say that Meier’s weapons were removed and that he smelled what he believed to be alcohol on Meier.
A paramedic at the scene placed the car in “park” and shut off the engine.
AFR transported Meier for further treatment, according to the report.
“During my time on scene Agent Meier appeared to be breathing, but not responsive to questions, and appeared to be drifting in and out of consciousness. I did not observe any obvious signs of injury to his person,” a responding officer said in the report.
Additionally, APD Deputy Chief Paul O’Keefe responded to the scene. In the report, he stated that when he entered Meier’s patrol car, he smelled what he thought “was the odor of an unknown alcoholic beverage; however, the smell was fleeting and I did not observe any physical evidence of alcohol consumption in the vehicle.”
O’Keefe wrote that he briefly reentered the car before it was removed from the scene and did not smell the odor again.
“Also, my observations of Agt. Meier led me to question if this was in fact alcohol intoxication or some other medical episode, as his physical demeanor was not what I thought was consistent with alcohol intoxication; it appeared more medical in nature,” O’Keefe wrote.
O’Keefe said that he originally requested a traffic officer respond to the hospital to investigate a possible DUI.
“However, based on the lack of information, my own observations, the fact that the car was stopped (ignition on) with no motor vehicle accident or driving observations, and the lack of any additional evidence (no other noted smells, no bloodshot watery eyes, physical impairment inconsistent with my experience with DUI), it was decided that no testing would be completed at that time,” O’Keefe wrote.
KDVR also obtained a document describing a disciplinary hearing against Meier.
The document states that Meier arrived at work more than two hours late on March 29. He left about four hours before his shift was scheduled to end.
“There is no indication that you were on follow-up or conducting work-related business and no one knew your whereabouts prior to this incident,” the disciplinary hearing report states.
The report goes on to say that Meier admitted to internal affairs that he left work to go home and admitted to drinking vodka from a bottle while at home. He was still on duty at the time.
“You admitted that you were impaired by alcohol. You stated you had no recollections of anything else until you woke up in the hospital,” the report states.
Despite the accusations against him, Meier kept his job at APD and was not charged with a DUI.
DA George Brauchler said his office is not investigating. However, he said via Twitter that he had “made inquiry about this particular matter with our law enforcement partners.”
On Thursday, Larimer County Sheriff Justin Smith blasted APD, saying he was appalled by the department’s actions.
“I’m one of the loudest defenders of America’s men and women in blue when they are unfairly criticized for doing a very difficult job. However, I have no tolerance for misconduct or cover up,” Smith wrote.
APD released the following statement about the incident:
“On March 29, 2019 the Aurora Police Department received a call of a uniformed officer who was passed out in a vehicle. The officer, Nathan “Nate” Meier, was unresponsive in the driver’s seat of an unmarked APD vehicle and attempts to wake him up were not successful. Once the officer was removed from the vehicle by members of Aurora Fire Rescue he was immediately transported to an area hospital for medical evaluation.
Some of the officers who had first arrived on scene had contact with Ofc. Meier and smelled a very faint odor of a possible alcoholic beverage on his breath. The odor did not linger and was not prevalent. There was no evidence located in the vehicle indicating this was an incident involving alcohol. This incident was treated as an emergency medical situation until more information could be gathered.
At the hospital medical evaluations were done for Ofc. Meier. One APD sergeant gained access to the room and briefly spoke with Ofc. Meier but did not note any odor of alcohol coming from his breath.
Information the hospital staff learned about his condition was not shared with members of the department due to Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) privacy laws. The hospital staff informed our members he was being treated and would be released in a few hours, and nothing further. In fact, at one point hospital staff refused to allow officers access to the hospital room.
Questions have been raised as to why this was not a Driving Under the Influence (DUI) investigation and why he was not charged with a DUI-related charge. Due to an inability to exclude a medical condition, and absent confirmatory information a DUI investigation was not conducted. No blood test was done since there was no felony committed and a blood draw could not be forced. However, the hospital did draw blood from Officer Meier for examination and diagnosis purposes.
An Internal Affairs Investigation was initiated. During that process Ofc. Meier voluntarily shared his medical records which indicated the level of his alcohol consumption. Based on HIPPA, this was information he did not have to release to the department. During his Internal Affairs interview, Ofc. Meier immediately admitted to his actions and the poor choices he made that day, and has been cooperative throughout the process.
Ofc. Meier took immediate responsibility for his actions. He has shown tremendous dedication in addressing his actions of that day and taken aggressive steps moving forward. In addition to being demoted from the rank of Agent back to officer, Ofc. Meier also received a significant unpaid suspension. As a result of this discipline, Ofc. Meier has experienced a financial impact in excess of $20,000 and will continue to experience such impact over the next few years as a result of his continued demotion.
In addition, he has stringent rules to follow while he remains employed with the Aurora Police Department. Among those rules he has signed an agreement that any similar or significant infraction will result in immediate termination.
We understand in order to maintain the public’s trust we need to be transparent with our actions. We take our responsibility to the public very serious and hold our members accountable for their wrong doings.”