A Nye County Sheriff’s sergeant was arrested Saturday morning after he was caught allegedly stealing 60 prescription pills from the sheriff’s office.
Sgt. Michael Horn, a 10-year-year veteran, was also accused of coercing an elderly woman into giving him her prescription pain medication during a call for service on the day he was relieved of duty.
Horn raised suspicions on Friday after a subordinate reportedly questioned the superior officer’s insistence that he be the one to book medication collected from a deceased person’s residence into evidence; an order that went against department policy.
The subordinate alerted a narcotics officer to Horn’s demands and the detective was able to get an inventory of the pills before the subordinate handed them over to the sergeant to be booked into evidence.
Once the sergeant booked the pills, the narcotics officer later took them from the evidence room and recounted them. A total of 60 15-milligram morphine sulfate pills were missing. According to police, the pills have a street value of $10 each, making the missing amount worth approximately $600.
Sheriff Tony DeMeo was alerted to the situation at 11:35 p.m. Friday. By Saturday morning, police had search warrants for Horn’s person, his patrol car and his home.
Horn’s shift began at 6 a.m. Saturday. His superiors were planning on relieving him of duty as soon as he arrived at the office. Instead of coming straight to the sheriff’s office, however, Horn took a noise complaint call from an elderly woman. While at the woman’s house, Horn allegedly coerced her into giving him her pain medication. According to DeMeo, the woman told police she felt she had no choice but to turn her medication over to the sergeant based on his status as a police officer and her physical fear of him.
An NCSO press release on the matter states that Horn told other deputies the medication was expired and he was taking it to be disposed of. It was later discovered the prescription had been filled just 10 days prior.
When Horn finally showed up at the sheriff’s office, he was confronted about the pills missing from evidence; investigators then found the elderly woman’s pills in Horn’s uniform shirt pocket.
Horn was served with search warrants and then given a drug test. He was allegedly found to have three categories of drugs in his system.
A search of Horn’s squad car allegedly uncovered several different schedule 2 controlled substances, including liquid morphine and pain pills in a female’s name.
In the spare tire area in the trunk of the vehicle, investigators allegedly discovered more than 15 prescription pill bottles of yet to be determined substance and ownership.
Investigators additionally reported finding the pills Horn allegedly took from the NCSO Friday wrapped in a paper towel with some other pills in an overhead compartment.
Horn was arrested on charges of DUI, possession of a firearm by a prohibited person, coercion, burglary, six counts of possession of a controlled substance, three counts of unlawful use of a controlled substance, oppression under color of office, petit larceny and possession of stolen property.
He was booked into the Beatty jail in lieu of $66,900 bail, but later released on his own recognizance by Justice of the Peace Kent Jasperson.
Police said the sergeant was arrested for DUI, first offense, and possession of a firearm by a prohibited person because he was allegedly driving and in possession of his sidearm and long guns located in his vehicle while under the influence of a controlled substance.
DeMeo said by state law Horn was placed on paid administrative leave pending the completion of both criminal and internal investigations.
The sheriff said news of Horn’s arrest came as a shock to his patrol unit and other officers in the department.
“If I had known this was going on before a deputy brought this to my attention Friday, I would have taken action before Friday,” DeMeo said. “He was never incoherent; he never showed any signs of any kind of impairment.”
DeMeo said as soon as he was notified of the situation he told a detective to get search warrants for Horn’s county issued patrol car, his person and his home, though enough evidence was found in Horn’s car that his residence was not searched.
“When it was discovered, (the detective) called me up and asked how I wanted to proceed and I said how would you proceed if this was someone else? Did you think I would tell you any differently? I told him get a warrant for the car,” the sheriff said. “And this is the reason why, even though the car belongs to Nye County, if they have personal property in that vehicle, we can’t go through that personal property without a warrant. If he had a gym bag or anything like that, we couldn’t go through that without a warrant.”
Following Horn’s arrest, DeMeo said he met with some of the sergeant’s subordinates to talk about what happened.
Until other arrangements can be made, the sheriff said he would be taking over immediate supervision of Horn’s patrol unit.
As of Tuesday afternoon, a report of the incident had not yet been submitted to the Nye County District Attorney’s Office for review.
“I have not been provided with a report of this incident so I cannot offer any comment on potential charges,” District Attorney Brian Kunzi said Tuesday. “These allegations as reported are serious and will be treated accordingly. Officers that have violated the trust given to them by the public must be held accountable to a high standard.”
Kunzi added that it’s hard to say at this time what impact Horn’s arrest may have on any cases his office is handling.
“It is very difficult to know at this point in time what impact the arrest will have on any prosecutions. In most instances, not being able to use one of the officers present will not affect our ability to prosecute. The only time we would have a potential issue is if there is only one officer that can testify about a particular element and that officer is unavailable,” Kunzi explained. “My general feeling is that given his position as a supervisor, Sgt. Horn was the primary officer in a very small number of cases, which means the impact likely will be negligible.”
About Horn’s alleged positive drug test, DeMeo said he has brought the idea of random drug testing to the county commission during budgeting discussions, but the county has declined to pay for the initiative.
“When I brought the idea to the county during budget discussions in the past, they wouldn’t fund it. You have to fund the random drug testing,” the sheriff said. “I’ve talked to members of the sheriff’s office about random drug testing and there’s never seemed to be any resistance to it, but that’s something that would have to be negotiated with the union and it’s something that would have to be funded.”
Nye County Law Enforcement Association President David Boruchowitz, who is also a detective, said the union is open to the idea of fair and appropriate drug testing in the department and will continue to keep an open line of communication with DeMeo as this case unfolds. Boruchowitz is Horn’s union representative.
“The association is of the belief of fair and appropriate drug testing,” Boruchowitz said. “As the union president I am always looking at ways to work with the sheriff to make things run smoother. Certainly at times like this the doorways of communication are open between the two of us.”
As of Tuesday, no court date had been set for Horn to make an appearance on his charges.
An attorney appointed to represent Horn in the internal NCSO investigation of the matter declined to comment when reached by phone.
Sources tell the PVT that Horn was under the care of the Veterans Administration when he was arrested. A former Air Force firefighter, Horn is also the son-in-law of Assistant Sheriff Rick Marshall, who happens to be a candidate for sheriff in this year’s election. Marshall released a short statement about the arrest late Tuesday afternoon.
“Kristin and I would like to state that we support and love Ginny &Michael. We hope and pray for Michael to receive the treatment he needs and for a full recovery. We were informed of this event after the investigation and arrest. Michael was treated no different than any other person. He will go through the criminal justice process and the Internal Affairs process just like any other person. We wish to thank everyone for the overwhelming support we have received,” the statement reads.
Horn’s arrest follows two other recent incidents involving local police behaving badly.
On Dec. 5, Deputy Royce Avena was arrested on charges of domestic battery, stalking, burglary and false imprisonment after he allegedly broke into his estranged wife’s home and held her captive there.
Avena was placed on paid administrative leave pending both a criminal and internal investigation of the incident and formal charges were filed against him by the district attorney’s office on Jan. 2.
Also, last year former Deputy Dan Ellis was terminated following an internal investigation into allegations that he Tazered a restrained inmate without provocation in September 2012. A federal grand jury in Las Vegas is investigating that incident.