Colo. Chief Allegedly Impersonated Police Officer

HYGIENE, Colo. --

Hygiene Fire Chief William Nelson has been suspended after his arrest Saturday night on suspicion of impersonating an officer and driving under the influence.

Nelson, 57, was driving his personal "volunteer firefighter truck" when he turned on red flashing lights to pull over a vehicle carrying three people at about 10:15 p.m. near North Foothills Highway and Hygiene Road, according to a Boulder County deputy's report.

Deputies arrested Nelson on suspicion of impersonating a police officer, driving under the influence, marijuana possession and a firearm violation, according to an arrest affidavit.

Police found 5 grams of marijuana in the truck cab, along with a loaded .40-caliber handgun in the center console and a loaded .22-caliber rifle slung between the two front seats, the affidavit said.

Kayla West wrote in a police statement that she was driving on 17th Avenue when a gold truck pulled into the street from a driveway, forcing her to slam on the brakes.

As West pulled around the slow-moving truck, she said the truck driver flipped on red flashing lights and began tailing her closely with his bright lights on.

Khrystal Weyhrich, West's passenger, said the woman kept driving and Weyhrich called 911 because they were "scared" the truck driver wasn't a real police officer, according to witness statements. A dispatcher told them to drive toward Lyons and a deputy would meet them.

At one point, Nelson shut off the truck's red lights, and West said she stopped her car and tried to talk with the driver.

But Nelson began yelling and tried to jump in front of West's car as the frightened woman drove off, according to Weyhrich's statement.

Jorge Santiago-Nava, another passenger in West's car, said he got out of the car to talk with Nelson at a stop sign, but the truck driver smelled of alcohol, the passenger's statement said. So Santiago-Nava jumped back in the car and West drove off.

Finally, a deputy's patrol car intercepted the car and the truck.

Nelson told a deputy that he pulled over West's car "because he thought they were drunk," the affidavit said.

But deputies decided it was Nelson who appeared to be driving under the influence, the affidavit said. He smelled of alcohol, his speech was slurred and his eyes were bloodshot.

Nelson declined to take a voluntary roadside sobriety test, the affidavit said. After he was arrested, Nelson later agreed to take a blood test.

As Deputy Dave Salaman drove Nelson to jail, the fire chief "continued yelling at me that I was speeding and that I needed to slow down," Salaman wrote in an arrest report. A handcuffed Nelson accused the deputy of speeding about 10 times and shifted his body in the patrol car's back seat to look at the speedometer, wrote Salaman, who noted that he was not speeding.

Nelson was later released from jail Monday on $5,000 bond.

Nelson had a 1996 DUI arrest in Weld County, according to court records. He pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of driving while ability impaired. He was sentenced to 10 days in jail, 24 hours of community service and one year probation.

The Hygiene Fire Protection District issued a statement saying its board of directors suspended Nelson on Sunday pending further investigation. Assistant Chief Bill Eliasen was appointed acting chief.

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