Officer recorded drunk, passed out behind wheel of cruiser won't face charges

DENVER, Colo. (KDVR) — A police officer found passed out drunk at the wheel of his cruiser in Colorado will not face charges in the incident.

Body camera video shows fellow officers on the scene where Nate Meier was found unconscious in his patrol car. The engine was running, and his foot was on the brake.

“I’m frustrated because bottom line is, if one of us had been in that car and not Officer Nate Meier, you ask me if do I think it would have been treated differently? I do,” said District Attorney George Brauchler. “There was no attempt by Aurora Police Department to get a blood sample at any time. No request at all.”

During the internal affairs investigation, it was learned that Meier had a blood alcohol reading of .430, which is five times the legal limit. That test was done by hospital staff and is not admissible in court.

Had the police department requested the blood test, that record could have been subpoenaed.

“We did it wrong,” said interim Chief Vanessa Wilson, who was not interim chief at the time of the incident. “We did not charge him with a DUI.”

“I can’t sit here and defend those decisions because it did mess up the ability to hold Nate (Meier) accountable as we would hold any other citizen accountable or any person in our community," said Wilson.

She said officers are held to a higher standard and that in the future, a DUI investigation will be undertaken.

“This became an ignorance is bliss moment,” said Brauchler. “I think this became, we don’t want to know. We don’t want to get evidence that might show what we suspect. I don’t think that’s a cover-up, but it’s a couple blocks from it.”

Meier was in uniform when he was found and was armed with his service weapon.

“You had a close-up and personal image of that scene that we have seen played over and over again. The officers wrote in their reports that they smelled alcohol, and when they were interviewed in internal affairs, they stated they smelled the faint odor of alcohol, so they weren’t covering it up,” said Wilson.

Wilson announced she planned to open an internal affairs investigation into Deputy Chief Paul O’Keefe, who was one of the first officers on the scene with Meier. He chose not to pursue a DUI investigation into Meier.

“There was a decision made. There was a high-ranking official on scene, and like any military organization … there is a chain of command, and officers follow the lead – if you will – of whoever is running that investigation,” she said.

According to Crystal McCoy, a spokesperson for APD, O’Keefe announced he would retire on Friday. He was originally scheduled to retire in March.