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Independent investigation launched after Aurora officer is found passed out drunk

Posted at 8:30 PM, Dec 17, 2019
and last updated 2019-12-17 22:30:32-05

AURORA, Colo. -- Aurora’s city manager has called for an independent investigation into an incident in March involving an Aurora police officer who was found passed out drunk at the wheel of his unmarked car in the middle of the road earlier this year.

Officer Nathan Meier, who was never investigated for driving under the influence, was taken to a hospital after he was found by fellow officers, who reported that they smelled alcohol and talked about possible intoxication at the scene. The officer later admitted to drinking vodka that day while on duty.

Aurora police documents also show Meier, “Admitted stated that (he) has no recollections of anything else until (he) woke up in the hospital.”

Former U.S. Attorney John Walsh was asked to complete the independent review by Aurora’s city manager.

A spokesperson for WilmerHale, the firm Walsh works for, sent a statement to Denver7 saying, “WilmerHale has been retained by the City of Aurora to conduct an independent review of the response to the incident involving Aurora police officer Nathan Meier. Former US Attorney for Colorado and current WilmerHale Partner John Walsh will lead that review. In order to preserve the independence of the review, we will not provide further comment at this time."

Aurora Mayor Mike Coffman also sent Denver7 a statement about the independent review saying, "I'm sure that former U.S. Attorney John Walsh will be helpful in examining whether the policies and procedures of the Department were followed, in the case of the police officer, Nate Meier, who was found passed out behind the wheel of his unmarked police vehicle in March. However, a former U.S. Attorney can't file criminal charges, only a district attorney can. I have had multiple conversations with District Attorney George Brauchler and he has assured me that his office will do an exhaustive investigation into this incident and I have assured him that he will have the full cooperation of the APD for whatever he needs."

Denver7 also obtained a copy of the Aurora Police Officer Lateral Application Meier filled out in 2001.

According to the document, Meier previously worked for the University of Norther Colorado as a student officer.

Denver7 reached out to the school for records of his employment but was told that the school has no file or record of his service since student records were not required to be kept after separation of employment. The school also pointed out that the student program ended nearly 25 years ago.

Meier also worked for the Greeley Police Department from May 22, 1995 to February 9, 2003. Denver7 requested service records for Meier for his employment there but was told that the city only keeps records for 10 years per its records retention policy requirements and that Meier’s records were destroyed in 2014.

However, according the Aurora application, Meier admitted that he had been terminated by an employer in the past and had received a formal, written reprimand from a former employer.

Beyond that, Meier checked "yes" on a box on the application that asked, “Have you ever been investigated by your employer for improper conduct or illegal activities which resulted in you being found in violation of any organization policies, regulations, rules, or any State or Federal Laws?”

Denver7 requested more information about this past conduct from Aurora police but has not received a response.

An independent review can take as little as a couple of weeks or as long as a month or more. Stan Garnett has seen numerous independent reviews happen during the 10 years he served as Boulder’s District Attorney.

“It’s tricky now because in this case were talking about a case that several months old already. Most of the time you want to do this investigation promptly,” Garnett said.

He believes there are two things investigators will be looking for.

“One, what happened on the day in March when this guy was found in his car with the car running and passed out; and number two, what happened in the decision making within the agency about why they did or did not impose certain discipline,” Garnett said.

If there is enough evidence to show that Meier was found to be drunk driving, Garnett said there is still a possibility he could face a DUI charge since the statute of limitations has not passed. A breathalyzer test was not conducted on Meier in the field, however, which could make it harder for prosecutors to prove their case should they go after a possible DUI charge.