FRESNO, Calif. (KSEE/KGPE) — Criminal charges against a Fresno police sergeant were announced in a joint news conference Wednesday.
On Dec. 30 at approximately 4:15 p.m. officers received a call in regards to a police cruiser driving erratically in a parking lot in the area of Herndon Avenue and Highway 99. The caller said the cruiser was running over curbs and had hit a tree.
Officers responded and found Sgt. Donald Dinnell “suffering from a medical episode.” Believed to be having a heart attack, officers quickly discovered that Dinnell had been involved in a drug-related call. Officers suspected Dinnell may have been in contact with fentanyl, therefore the decision was made to give Dinnell a dose of Narcan.
“On arrival to the emergency room Sgt. Dinnell was greeted by a line of police officers who were there to support him and were relieved that he was going to be OK,” Fresno Police Chief Paco Balderrama said.
Investigators began looking into Sgt. Dinnell’s previous drug-related call to ensure that no other officers were exposed to fentanyl. Balderrama says that the investigation revealed “some concerning circumstances related to Dinnell’s exposure” that led to a “full criminal investigation on the matter.”
Balderrama says the investigation confirmed “sufficient evidence” to believe that Dinnell “used force or fear to obtain controlled and dangerous drugs from the victim on a previous call.”
“He was in illegal possession of controlled and dangerous drugs,” Chief Balderrama said. “He was driving a patrol car under the influence of intoxicants.”
In addition, to the criminal investigation, Fresno Police Department officials are conducting an administrative investigation.
A complaint will be filed Wednesday against Sgt. Dinnell alleging charges of second-degree robbery, DUI, and possession of methamphetamine. Bail will be set at $31,000.
“I anticipate that Sgt. Dinnell will be hopefully be turning himself in and he will be booked into the Fresno County jail,” said Fresno County District Attorney Lisa Smittcamp.
Dinnell has been on administrative leave since the incident, and never returned back to full duty.
The Fresno Sheriff’s Office said Dinnell has turned himself in to the court. The judge granted Dinnell to be released as long as he posted bail and returned to court on May 5.