Officer Fired For Driving 143 MPH Drunk Fights For Job

Derrick Curtis Saunders Was Fired Over June 17 Arrest

A Denver police officer said his termination for driving 143 mph while intoxicated is unfair and harsh and he wants his job back.

Manager of Safety Alex Martinez terminated Derrick Curtis Saunders Dec. 7 over the officer's June 17, 2010, arrest for traveling 143 mph -- 88 mph over the 55 mph speed limit.

A Colorado State Patrol officer stopped him driving a friend's 2008 Infiniti on Gun Club Road in Arapahoe County and found his blood-alcohol level was 0.089 percent, above the legal limit of 0.08 percent, according to court documents.

"The extraordinary high speed alone is stunning. The fact that you drove at this dangerous speed while your ability to drive was impaired by alcohol is shocking. In addition, you were driving at night and with a passenger in the car," Martinez wrote when he terminated Saunders.

Saunders pleaded guilty to driving while impaired and to reckless driving on May 24 and was sentenced to five days in jail, fined $300 and ordered to perform 100 hours of community service.

In firing Saunders, Martinez wrote the incident showed "a serious lack of character" related to being a police officer and "a willful and wanton disregard" for police department values.

"The Denver Police Department values accountability, defined as demonstrating responsibility in all activities. The extraordinary high speed while impaired is egregious misconduct substantially contrary to the standards of conduct reasonably expected of one whose sworn duty it to uphold the law," Martinez wrote.

Through the police union, Saunders is appealing to the Denver Civil Service Commission, claiming his termination is excessive and punitive.

Saunders previously had been cleared of pointing a gun at a McDonald's employee in Aurora in 2009. The employee said Saunders, an officer assigned to Denver International Airport, grew impatient when his order wasn’t filled fast enough. He was in the drive-thru with another off-duty officer when he pulled the gun on them on May 2009, according to the McDonald's workers.

Saunders denied pointing the gun and a jury cleared Saunders of felony menacing and weapons charges in April 2010.

Saunders has been a Denver police officer since 2007.

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