DENVER – Two Colorado police officers traveling to represent their department at another lawman's funeral are on desk duty after authorities say they took an alcohol-fueled ride through Wyoming with their emergency lights flashing and a beer cooler in the back seat.
Aurora officers Bradley B. Bickett and Gerald Kirby, each with more than 30 years on the force, are accused of speeding past traffic with their emergency lights on and tossing trash from a window on their way to the South Dakota funeral of a fallen police officer.
Their squad car was pulled over Wednesday after a volunteer firefighter spotted the car driving erratically on a state highway outside Torrington, Wyo., about 50 miles northeast of Cheyenne. Bickett was charged with driving while impaired, careless driving and speeding, while Kirby was charged with littering.
"The acts of the officers who were en route to represent the department at a funeral are embarrassing to us as an organization," said Bob Friel, spokesman for the police department in the Denver suburb of Aurora.
Friel said Bickett and Kirby received permission to travel to Rapid City, S.D., to represent their department at a funeral for one of two officers killed in a shootout earlier this month. Bickett knew an officer in the department, Friel said.
Goshen County Sheriff's Capt. Bryan Morehouse told Denver's KUSA-TV he smelled alcohol and found beer in a cooler inside the car when he stopped them.
Goshen County Sheriff Donald J. Murphy said Friday that Bickett's blood alcohol level tested at 0.08 percent, the level at which he said a driver is presumed to be under the influence. Another test determined his level was 0.077 percent, Murphy said.
Bickett's speech was described as "slurred" in a booking report posted on the Goshen County Sheriff's Department website. He was released on an own recognizance bond early Thursday.
Two Aurora police officers went to Wyoming to pick up Bickett and Kirby. They were placed on desk duty pending an internal investigation, Friel said.
Aurora Police Chief Dan Oates personally apologized to Murphy, Friel said. Oates also spoke to the 600-member department about what happened, Friel said.
Murphy said Friday he's received some complaints from officers in other departments about the arrests. But he insisted his deputies had no choice.
"My guys felt really bad and embarrassed that they were doing field sobriety on officers from another agency, but at the same time they did what they were supposed to do," Murphy said.
"We had a complaint, we stopped a vehicle, we investigated, and we acted from there. So I think that my officers did exactly what they were supposed to do, and commend them for having the nerve for doing what they did," Murphy said.
In Rapid City, Heupel said Police Chief Steven Allender was aware of the arrests but that department had no comment.
The funeral for the fallen officer, Nick Armstrong, 27, was held Thursday. Armstrong and Officer J. Ryan McCandless were killed in an Aug. 2 shootout that erupted while they were trying to question four men walking with an open alcohol container, said Rapid City police spokeswoman Tarah Heupel. A third officer, Tim Doyle, was hospitalized with multiple gunshot wounds.
The suspected gunman, 22-year-old Daniel Tiger, was shot and killed in the confrontation.
Ben Neary reported from Cheyenne.