Credit: CBS 13

A Lewiston police officer who was found dead in his Webster Street home on Feb. 8 died from a fentanyl overdose, police said Thursday.

The Maine medical examiner’s office determined that Officer Nicholas Meserve, 34, died as a result of an accidental fentanyl overdose, Lewiston police Chief Brian T. O’Malley said.

“I hope it’s a reminder that the opioid epidemic touches the lives of many in the community regardless of their wealth, race, religion or profession,” O’Malley said.

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Meserve worked for nearly 10 years with the Lewiston Police Department. Before joining the department, he worked for the Androscoggin County Jail in Auburn.

The news comes two weeks after the Maine attorney general’s office announced that 2018 marked the first year since 2011 that the total number of drug overdose deaths dropped in Maine.

In a report released April 18, the attorney general’s office said 354 Mainers died as a result of a drug overdose last year, down from 417 the year before. Of those deaths, 217 were attributed to fentanyl and its analogs, a 12 percent reduction from 2017.

The author of the report, Marcella H. Sorg of the Margaret Chase Smith Policy Center in Orono, said that the decline may be related to several “broad influences,” including economic and policy changes, law enforcement efforts, and the “composition and combination” of drugs that are being sold.

But she said that the drop doesn’t necessarily indicate fewer Mainers are suffering from opioid use disorder.

[Fatal drug overdoses dropped in Maine last year, but still claimed hundreds of lives]

O’Malley said Thursday that his department conducts regular reviews of an officer’s use of force, sick time usage, job performance evaluations and complaints from the public, but none of the reviews indicated that Meserve had been “battling a drug dependency issue or addiction issue.”

O’Malley said that the city is currently in negotiations with the police unions to establish a drug-testing policy to identify potential substance use issues and provide resources for employees struggling with dependency or addiction.

Meserve’s death remains under investigation by the Maine attorney general’s office, the Maine State Police and the Maine Drug Enforcement Agency.