Officer Fired, Charged Criminally For Having Fentanyl In System On Duty
Braddock, PA – A Braddock police officer is facing charges that she was driving under the influence on duty in January.
Former Braddock Police Officer Renee Jones was the only officer on duty for the Braddock Police Department in the wee hours of Jan. 24 when she responded to University of Pennsylvania Medical Center – McKeesport for a report of a patient who had arrived with a gunshot wound, WTAE reported.
Witnesses to Officer Jones’ arrival at the hospital said it was obvious something was off.
The criminal complaint said another officer who saw her arrive said she "walked into the hospital with a forward lean and dazed look on her face," according to WTAE.
The officer also said 28-year-old Officer Jones had dilated pupils and slurred speech.
The complaint said the other officer noted Jones "appeared to be under the influence of a controlled substance," WTAE reported.
Police said Officer Jones spoke with the police department’s sergeant, and then returned to her police vehicle and parked it behind the gunshot victim’s car.
Her police vehicle was blocking other parking spaces and an ambulance access, according to WTAE.
Other officers went to ask Officer Jones to move her car, but they found her asleep behind the wheel with the engine running.
They tried to wake the officer up several times before they got a response, WTAE reported.
Once Officer Jones awakened, she asked the other officers what was going on and appeared very confused.
The criminal complaint said Officer Jones was taken into the hospital for a blood test that revealed she had the narcotic fentanyl in her system, WTAE reported.
Fentanyl causes pupils to constrict and it's not clear why she allegedly had dilated pupils.
Investigators later reviewed 911 calls from that evening and discovered a report about a Braddock police car driving erratically and hitting a median near the McKeesport-Duquesne Bridge.
Witnesses said the police car drove across the center line and into oncoming traffic just past the Eastland Shopping Center, according to WTAE.
Braddock Mayor Chardae Jones said Officer Jones has been terminated by the police department, WPXI reported.
“She was relieved the same day that she found out that she was under the influence,” the mayor said.
Former-Officer Jones was charged with driving under the influence of alcohol or a controlled substance, reckless driving, and careless driving, WTAE reported.
Her attorney claimed the police department has the story all wrong, and that his client was not willingly under the influence.
"She was actually diagnosed with exhaustion, dehydration and sleep apnea at UPMC following this incident," Marc Daffner told WTAE.
He also said that something is wrong with the test results to which the criminal complaint referred.
"It is my understanding that medical records that she is in possession of actually show that she was negative for any controlled substance at all," Daffner said.
The officer’s attorney said his client may have been exposed to the drug another way.
“It’s not unheard of that, for example, police officers who enter a home for a bust will get fentanyl somehow on them, it will be absorbed through the skin,” Daffner posited.
The former police officer is due in court on May 6, WPXI reported.