Loaded handgun discovered in Denver jail toilet prompts internal investigation

DENVER - A loaded handgun discovered in a toilet by a custodian at the Denver Detention Center Sunday afternoon has prompted an internal investigation.

The discovery prompted an internal affairs investigation by the Denver Police Department and new charges for DUI suspect Derek Moore.

Moore, 30, was arrested before 5 a.m. Sunday after police said he was the at-fault driver in a car accident.

Police reports said Moore blew a .097 when he was booked at the downtown jail - above the legal limit for driving.

After Moore was arrested, he was brought to an area of the downtown jail known as the Intake DUI Room.

Surveillance video showed Moore dropping his handgun into the toilet around 5:46 a.m., nearly eight hours before it would be discovered by a custodian.

The 9mm Beretta had a bullet in the chamber and six more rounds in the magazine.

"That's a big mistake, mainly because it puts people's lives in danger," said Dr. James Ponzi, Chair of the Criminology Department at Regis University.

Dr. Ponzi spent 35 years as a Denver police officer and said there is no way the arresting officer should have failed to search Moore before taking him into custody.

"You're taught that from the time you're in the academy," he said.

Dr. Ponzi said the mistake was especially embarrassing because according to police reports, Moore is a convicted felon who can't legally possess a firearm and he was under the influence of alcohol.

"People do things when they're intoxicated that they might not think about doing if they're sober," Dr. Ponzi said.

In October, DPD Officer Nicholas Gunsauls received a two-day suspension after he failed to find a handgun in the waistband of a suspect he arrested outside the Marquis Theater last June.

Dr. Ponzi said the arresting officer in Moore's case should face a similar punishment.

"He should absolutely be disciplined. Imagine what would've happened if that guy or another prisoner would've killed somebody with it?" Dr. Ponzi said.

Thanks to surveillance video in the jail, Moore now faces a new count of possession of a weapon by a previous offender in addition to his DUI arrest.

About 5:15 p.m. Tuesday, DPD sent out the following statement:

"It’s very concerning that it appears an arrestee was armed while in police custody, as that obviously jeopardizes officer and public safety. We proactively opened an Internal Affairs investigation into this matter to determine how this occurred and the appropriate next steps in addressing the situation."

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