County deputy found asleep in patrol car is fired

July 31, 2014

By Steve Miletich

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King County Sheriff John Urquhart has fired a deputy who was arrested in Newcastle on New Year’s Eve after being found asleep in his patrol car and showing signs of impairment.

The deputy was ultimately found to have prescription drugs in his system, according to a previous statement from the Bellevue Police Department, which was asked to handle the criminal investigation, while the King County Sheriff’s Office handled the administrative investigation.

Deputy Whitney Richtmyer, 47, was fired for violations involving criminal conduct and dishonest statements related to his actions on New Year’s Eve, and a subsequent investigation that found various paperwork in his car hadn’t been turned in over a four-year period, Urquhart said July 17.

Richtmyer was fired July 15 after meeting that day with Urquhart in a so-called Loudermill hearing, where deputies are allowed a final opportunity to plead their case.

The officer was not a member of the Newcastle Police Department and wasn’t working overtime in the city, Newcastle Police Chief Melinda Irvine said when the incident was first reported in January.

Richtmyer was taken into custody at about 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 in the Starbucks parking lot at the corner of Newcastle Way and Coal Creek Parkway.

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 sheriff’s spokeswoman 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 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.

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

The case against Richtmyer, 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. Prosecutors are continuing to review the case, an office spokesman said July 17.

Richtmyer was the second deputy fired by Urquhart in a week. Darrion Holiwell, who has been charged with helping his wife work as a prostitute, stealing department ammunition and illegally delivering testosterone, was terminated July 15.

 

Seattle Times news researcher Miyoko Wolf contributed to this story, which includes information from Times archives. Steve Miletich: 206-464-3302 or smiletich@seattletimes.com

 

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