LOVELAND, Colo. — A lawsuit filed in Larimer County District Court on Monday claims a Loveland Police officer falsely arrested a man two years ago for driving under the influence, something the complaint says the officer had done before to other people.
According to the lawsuit, Loveland Police Officer William Gates said he pulled over Harris Elias in January 2020 for not using a signal to change lanes and for driving 18 mph in a 45 mph zone.
The lawsuit claims Gates falsely stated he could "smell the overwhelming odor of alcohol coming from [Elias'] vehicle.” There was no odor of alcohol coming from the car, according to the lawsuit.
The lawsuit states Elias is an FAA-licensed pilot and being arrested for a DUI can result in suspension or revocation.
Gates took Elias' documents back to his patrol car and called for more officers, according to the lawsuit. The complaint said Gates told two deputies from the Larimer County Sheriff's Office that Elias was refusing to answer questions.
The lawsuit accused Gates of falsely claiming Elias' eyes were "bloodshot, watery, or glassy." Gates formally arrested Elias for DUI after he refused to do any voluntary tests, according to the complaint.
"At the time he formally arrested Mr. Elias, Officer Gates did not have probable cause to arrest him for DUI," the lawsuit said. "He also knew it. He didn’t care."
The lawsuit said Gates has one of the highest DUI arrest rates in the state. The lawsuit claims Gates wrongfully arrested at least four people for DUI in the previous year.
Elias completed a breath test when he was taken to the Loveland police station. The result was 0.000% BAC, according to the complaint.
Even after the breath test, the lawsuit said, Gates told Elias he also needed to take a blood test.
"Officer Gates began babbling nonsense explanations," the lawsuit said. "This included him stating that he had 'reasonable suspicion to arrest' Mr. Elias for DUI (which is categorically insufficient under the Fourth Amendment and Colorado Constitution) and that since Mr. Elias had blown zeroes, he now could demand a blood test."
Two months later, the blood results came back negative, and the Larimer County Court dismissed the case against Elias, according to the lawsuit.
"Gates’s supervising officers at LPD were aware of his wrongful DUI arrests," the lawsuit said. "But they took no corrective measures whatsoever. They instead continued to reward him for the quantity of DUI arrests he made over all else."
Elias will have to report this arrest on every medical renewal with the FAA for the rest of his life, according to the lawsuit.
In a statement, the Loveland Police Department said any complaint leveled against their personnel is taken seriously, and Chief Bob Ticer has authorized an internal investigation. Once that investigation is complete, the department will share the findings with the public.
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