TERRE HAUTE, Ind. (WTWO/WAWV) — A Terre Haute police officer reportedly showed up to work while under the influence of prescription drugs, causing Police Chief Shawn Keen to hold a media conference Thursday.
Just days before Officer Jeffrey Pupilli would be placed under arrest after reportedly driving his patrol car while drunk, Officer Brittany R. Coffman was taken to a hospital for drug testing after other officers noted her slurred speech and slow movement during a traffic stop.
According to a court documents, the incident occurred during the early morning hours of May 26. A lieutenant with THPD reported noting Coffman’s speech sounding tired over the radio when she reported for duty as part of Operation Pullover at 2:38 a.m. In the officer’s narrative, the lieutenant noted that they have worked with Coffman for more than a decade, and recognized that Coffman hadn’t sounded normal on the radio.
A short time later Coffman requested a supervisor report to a traffic stop she had made near the intersection of 3rd and Park streets. A lieutenant and sergeant would arrive to the stop, both noting that Coffman appeared to be experiencing a medical episode, or under the influence. Both officers reported no odor of alcohol, but said Coffman’s eyes were droopy and watery, her speech was slurred and slow, and that her motor skills seemed slow and lethargic.
Per department policy, Coffman was taken to Regional Hospital to be cleared medically and then drug tested. The results of the test reportedly showed the presence of benzodiazepines in Coffman’s system. Coffman noted that she had been prescribed Xanax, which is a benzodiazepine.
Vigo County Prosecutor Terry Modesitt noted during Thursday’s conference that while Coffman has a prescription, she was still operating while under the influence and showed signs of impairment. However, Modesitt added that under the law with an OWI, Class C misdemeanor, a prescription is not a defense.
During Thursday’s media briefing with THPD Chief Shawn Keen, it was noted that Coffman has been placed on administrative leave as a result of the situation. Court records indicate she has been charged with operating a vehicle while intoxicated. The charge notes this is a first offense and adds that there was no endangerment.
Keen added that in light of this and Officer Pupilli’s incident he wanted to assure the public that his department takes these incidents seriously.
“While being disappointed in these allegations, I am thankful that our supervisors did what was expected of them and upheld their oath to protect the public, even if that meant that danger came from one of our own officers,” Keen said. “While these are never easy cases on anyone, pretending it’s not happening or looking the other way are not options. And our supervisors upheld that belief in these cases. So in both instances these officers were subject to arrest and the same detention standards as any member of the public who committed the same act under the same circumstances.”
“The actions of the supervisors in this speak for themselves. These officers were not involved in an accident they weren’t reported by someone else, our supervisors, took action. They saw that it was incorrect, they didn’t look the other way, they did what is required of all of us as police officers and even if that threat comes from another police officer we have a duty and a responsibility to act and they did so in these cases.”
Coffman’s charges were filed on June 7, the delay was due to awaiting the results of drug testing. Coffman is scheduled to appear in court for an initial hearing on June 21 at 1:30 p.m.