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July 17, 2014 at 11:47 AM

King County deputy found asleep in patrol car is fired

King County Sheriff John Urquhart has fired a deputy who was arrested in Newcastle on New Year’s Eve.

The deputy, who was found on-duty and asleep in his patrol car, had prescription drugs in his system, according to a previous statement from the Bellevue Police Department.

No details were released on the termination this week of Deputy Whitney Richtmyer, pending the release of paperwork outlining the findings.

Urquhart said he fired Richtmyer after meeting Tuesday with the deputy in a so-called Loudermill hearing, where deputies are allowed a final opportunity to plead their case.

The deputy was taken into custody around 9:30 p.m. on New Year’s Eve, after a citizen called 911 to report that the deputy was hunched over the steering wheel of his marked vehicle.

The three deputies who arrived to rouse their colleague noticed signs of impairment, police said.

Alcohol wasn’t suspected, but a Bellevue police drug-recognition expert who was called to the scene believed the deputy was “under the influence of some sort of drug, possibly a narcotic,” a spokeswoman for the King County Sheriff’s Office, Sgt. Cindi West, said after the arrest.

Blood drawn from the deputy was submitted to the Washington State Patrol Toxicology Lab, which ran a standard screen on the sample and did not detect drugs, according to the Bellevue Police Department.

Because that finding was at odds with what the department’s drug-recognition expert observed and the deputy’s alleged admission he’d taken prescription drugs during his shift, Bellevue police submitted a blood sample from the deputy to a lab in Pennsylvania that conducts broader substance screenings.

Bellevue police said investigators learned on March 31 that new lab analysis had returned with positive result for the presence of multiple prescription drugs, all of which have impairing qualities and carry warnings they are not to be used while operating machinery or vehicles.

The 16-year veteran of the sheriff’s office had been placed on light-duty status, meaning he has no police power but was performing clerical duties, according to the sheriff’s office.

The case against the deputy, who was arrested on investigation of physical control of a motor vehicle, the legal equivalent of DUI when no driving is observed, was forwarded to the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office, Bellevue police said. Prosecutors are continuing to review the case, an office spokesman said.

Richtmyer is the second deputy fired by Urquhart this week. Darrion Holiwell, who has been charged with helping his wife work as a prostitute, stealing department ammunition and illegally delivering testosterone, was terminated on Tuesday.

Comments | More in The Blotter | Topics: King County Sheriff John Urquhart, King County Sheriff's Office, New Year's Eve incident

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