ASPEN - An Aspen Middle School teacher is on administrative leave in the wake of a weekend arrest that led to charges of cocaine possession and driving under the influence, authorities said Monday.
Bruce Lee Johnson, 45, was booked into Pitkin County Jail after Aspen police arrested him around 12:46 a.m. Saturday. He was placed on administrative leave Monday pending an internal investigation of the incident, Aspen Superintendent John Maloy confirmed.
"To our knowledge, the incident involving Mr. Johnson did not involve students," Maloy wrote in an email statement. "The district will allow the process to run its due course before a determination is made."
Johnson, who teaches fifth grade and also coaches girls' volleyball and teaches drivers' education, had no comment Monday other than to "apologize to those who have been affected" by his actions.
Johnson was arrested initially on suspicion of driving under the influence after Aspen Police Officer Ryan Turner pulled him over around 12:30 a.m. on Highway 82 near Aspen Country Inn. Turner had clocked Johnson driving his vehicle at 49 miles per hour in a 35-mph zone, according to an affidavit in support of a warrantless arrest, which was written by Turner.
"During my contact with Johnson, I immediately smelled the strong odor of cigarette smoke and an unknown alcohol beverage emanating from his vehicle," the affidavit said. "On Johnson's front, passenger side floor I observed a 6-pack of Budweiser that had 4 bottles missing from the packaging. There were two full, unopened Budweiser beer bottles remaining in the packaging."
Johnson, whose eyes were blood-shot, admitted to Turner that he had consumed alcohol earlier in the night, according to the affidavit. Turner arrested Johnson on suspicion of DUI, and asked him if he had any drugs or weapons on him. Johnson said he did not, and a further search by Turner did not turn up any contraband, the affidavit said.
Turner wrote that he collected "all property from his person," including a matchbook and a matchbox.
A jail deputy also searched Johnson at the Pitkin County Jail, and did not discover anything illegal, Turner wrote. Meanwhile, a Breathalyzer test taken by Johnson showed his alcohol level to be 0.134 - in Colorado, a motorist with a level of 0.08 or higher is considered legally intoxicated.
Later, the same deputy who said she found nothing illegal on Johnson reported to Turner that she had discovered two bindles inside the matchbook and matchbox that the officer had confiscated. One of the bindles was empty, but the other one contained a white, powdery substance that tested positive for the presence of cocaine, Turner wrote.
Johnson later told Turner and another officer that he had been celebrating earlier in the evening and received the cocaine from a friend.
"Johnson added that he considered consuming the cocaine in a bathroom but decided not to," the affidavit said. "Johnson stated to Sergeant (Rob) Fabrocini and I that he was aware the cocaine he was in possession of was concealed inside of a matchbook."
Johnson faces charges of driving under the influence and DUI per se, along with two felony counts - unlawful possession of a controlled substance (cocaine) and introducing contraband in the second-degree.
He was released from jail later Saturday morning after posting $8,500 bond. His first court appearance is set Dec. 17.
Maloy said that in the interim, "a substitute has been secured to provide educational services during Mr. Johnson's absence, and, as always, the grade level team, of which Mr. Johnson is a part, will continue to work together to provide interdisciplinary services for all students."