AURORA, Colo. (CBS4) – Arapahoe County District Attorney George Brauchler said Wednesday he has directed his staff to begin an inquiry seeking reports, evidence and answers from the Aurora Police Department. That is after an on-duty Aurora officer, Nathan Meier, who was drunk, armed and behind the wheel of a department vehicle, was not charged for DUI or any other offense in March.
“I want more,” said Brauchler. “We’re trying to evaluate what the Aurora Police department did.”
Brauchler took action after a CBS4 investigation broke Tuesday surrounding an incident involving Meier. According to an internal affairs report obtained by CBS4, two citizens called 911 on March 29 at 3:44 p.m. after finding the officer unconscious and unresponsive in the driver’s seat of his unmarked APD vehicle. The car was running and in gear, Meier’s foot was on the brake. He was in uniform and on the clock.
When Meier, 48, didn’t respond to attempts to wake him up, first responders smashed a car window to get him out. Officers then “reported smelling the odor of an unknown alcoholic beverage.” Meier was not arrested or charged, but was taken to an area hospital.
He later told investigators he had gone home on duty and and drank “vodka from a bottle.” Meier lives in Parker. He admitted he was “impaired by the alcohol,” according to police investigators.
Multiple sources familiar with the case said blood alcohol tests at the hospital showed Meier was at least five times the legal limit for DUI.
“I don’t see anything that says preferential treatment,” said Brauchler. ”But, I want to know more.“
Scott Reisch, a veteran defense attorney who has represented clients in hundreds of DUI cases, said his clients “don’t get a pass like this.” Reisch went on to say, ”Had this been anyone other than a police officer they would have either been arrested or given a summons for a DUI. If this had been you or me.. w would have been charged with DUI and possession of a firearm while intoxicated, no doubt in my mind.”
The internal affairs investigation conducted by the police department found Meier violated four department regulations including “alcohol impairment.” Police sources say he was demoted, but allowed to return to duty. Through a police spokesperson, Meier declined to talk to CBS4 about the incident.
Aurora Police confirmed they had police reports about the incident, and CBS4 requested those documents, but the department has still not released those official reports.
In a written statement released Wednesday afternoon, the department said the odor of alcohol on Meier was “very faint,” and there was no evidence in his car indicating alcohol. At the hospital, police said a police sergeant spoke briefly with Meier but “did not note any odor of alcohol coming from his breath.”
Due to federal privacy laws, police say they did not gain any information from hospital staff and “at one point hospital staff refused to allow officers access to the hospital room.”
The statement goes onto report, ”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.”
Reisch said he has had many clients in DUI cases who were found passed out behind the wheel, but their cases were treated as DUIs, not medical cases.
Asked if the Aurora police handling of Meier added up, Brauchler said it was “plausible up to a point.”
Read APD’s full statement to CBS4:
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.