Police Abuse

Colorado Prosecutor Is 'Incredibly Frustrated' Over Failure To Investigate a Cop for Driving Drunk

District Attorney George Brauchler: "Bottom line is if one of us had been in that car and not officer Nate Meier, you ask me if I think it would have been treated differently, I do."

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Nathan Meier, a Colorado police officer, was found passed out cold in the driver's seat of a still-running patrol vehicle. While some officers on the scene said they smelled alcohol, the Aurora Police Department (APD) ultimately failed to investigate Meier for driving under the influence. In addition to announcing this week that he could not ethically bring charges against Meier, District Attorney George Brauchler of the 18th Judicial District is expressing his frustrations with APD's failure to investigate their own officer.

A Wednesday decision letter from Brauchler details the incident, which occurred March 29, 2019. Two witnesses contacted authorities after seeing Meier passed out behind the wheel of a patrol vehicle. The vehicle was still running, the gear was shifted in drive, and an unresponsive Meier's foot was on the brake. Meier was also clothed in his uniform and was carrying his gun.

APD Chief Paul O'Keefe was the first officer on the scene. O'Keefe smelled alcohol, but later told Internal Affairs that he was unsure of whether or not it came from Meier or the vehicle. He also said Meier's unresponsiveness was unlike his other experiences with intoxicated persons. Some of the officers on the scene also said they smelled alcohol, while others said they did not. Emergency medical personnel suggested that Meier had a stroke or was exposed to an opioid.

Body camera footage from the scene captured one officer telling another that Meier was "a little intoxicated."

Meier was transported to the hospital, where staff was also unusually tight-lipped about Meier's condition. An APD officer said he overheard talk about an unidentified patient's drunkenness and blood-alcohol concentration. 

Rather than choose to rule out the possibility, APD failed to obtain hospital records of Meier's blood sample or investigate the matter as a possible DUI.

"Media reports suggest that Officer Meier had a significant level of alcohol in his system," Brauchler explains. "It is our opinion that there was probable cause to seek a sample of blood from Meier."

Brauchler is referring to reporting done by CBS 4's Brian Maass. Maass found in an internal affairs summary where Meier admitted to going home to drink vodka, even though he was still on the clock. He also admitted to be impaired. The investigation went so far as to sustain "charges against Meier for alcohol impairment, neglect of duty, conduct unbecoming and 'conformance to law.'"

Yet, Meier merely faced a demotion for his behavior and remains on the force.

Because of APD's inaction at the crime scene, Brauchler's office concluded that it would not be able to obtain enough evidence to prove "beyond a reasonable doubt" to a court that Meier drove under the influence.

Brauchler further spoke of the incident in a Thursday press conference.

"I am incredibly frustrated with an agency that I put a great deal of trust in," he told reporters. "Bottom line is if one of us had been in that car and not officer Nate Meier, you ask me if I think it would have been treated differently, I do."

Brauchler further clarified that he didn't believe the department was involved in something as intentional as a coverup. Rather, the department treated it as an "ignorance is bliss moment."

"That case in my opinion should have been handled as a DUI," said Interim Chief Vanessa Wilson, via CBS 4. "If that was a regular citizen, a DUI investigation would have occurred, in my opinion."

Wilson added that the incident has "destroyed" the department's reputation.

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  1. Aren’t unresponsive drivers normally tased for non-compliance?

  2. After maligning the department like this he is sure to face retaliation of some sort. Doesn’t he realize that without cooperation from the police he can’t do his job? The cops can ruin him by screwing up his conviction rate.

    1. Or shooting his dog.

      1. Or shooting him in “self defense”

    2. It works the other way too. He can refuse to prosecute marginal cases and make them look bad.

      Prosecutors and cops basically bluff the public mostly, but each other to an extent. The winner is whoever has the most nerve; the cops have wrong-footed themselves here, the prosecutor is pissed at being caught up in such public ineptitude (don’t the cops know how to handle things more quietly? Apparently not), and if the prosecutor wants to, he could ride roughshod over the police department for the next year or two, until the cops find a better chief with more smarts and more backbone. At which point, the prosecutor will run for state Attorney General on his background of being tough on wayward cops.

      1. Wayward implies it’s a few bad apples,

    3. He’s just saying what he’s told to say. “I’m so darned angry, but…”.

  3. Brauchler further clarified that he didn’t believe the department was involved in something as intentional as a coverup. Rather, the department treated it as an “ignorance is bliss moment.”

    Probably more of a “there but for the grace of God go I” moment.

    1. Even more appropriate with the full quote “Where ignorance is bliss, ’tis folly to be wise”.

  4. Aurora, Colorado. Come for the happy hour, stay for the gang shootings.

    1. Perfect summary. I’m stealing that.

    2. Don’t they have a mall? Oh, that’s Westminster. Shows how many years since I’ve been in the area.

      1. Westminster’s mall was torn down about 10 years ago–they’re building one of those new mixed-use developments there now because it’s right by a light-rail stop.

        Aurora still has its mall, off of I-225 and Alameda. There was a shooting there recently. Yes, it was gang-related. They’re almost all gang-related in that city, and almost all on the north/northwest side of town.

  5. “O’Keefe smelled alcohol, but later told Internal Affairs that he was unsure of whether or not it came from Meier or the vehicle.” Yeah, the car was probably drunk, you fuckwit. Why didn’t you impound it, or at least shoot it?

    1. That was very funny, and right on the money!

    2. I’m sure that passed-out “civilians” with an odor of alcohol in their car get kid-gloves treatment, too.

      1. Maybe rubber gloves.

  6. If the DA was serious he would hand out arrest warrants to everyone on the scene for tampering. Instead he wants to whine about not having a perfect case handed to him.

  7. I was called for jury duty at Aurora City Court just two weeks ago.

  8. Emergency medical personnel suggested that Meier had a stroke or was exposed to an opioid.

    Better for EMT’s they absorb from police passive voice now than baton blows later.

  9. Happens every day.

    Somehow the tox screen and BAC never make it to the lab.

  10. “We don’t need no stinkin badges”.

  11. Is it Brauchler’s first day on the job? Why would he think that cops would investigate one of their own? I’m surprised that he’s surprised.

  12. Gosh, what a surprise. I am shocked, SHOCKED to see preferential treatment dished out like this!

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  19. I am a criminal defense lawyer in California who does mostly DUI defense. I actually find this a bit bizarre. Yes. Cops protect each other – especially when they do something like shoot an unarmed civilian. But DUI at least around here seems to be the exception. I have represented multiple police officers on DUI arrests. It is the one crime that I usually DO see cops pursuing proper investigations against other cops for… Sad that these idiots won’t even do that.

  20. “Meier admitted to going home to drink vodka, even though he was still on the clock.”

    He’s an alcoholic and will do it again.

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