Credit: CBS 13

A Lewiston police officer who died from a drug overdose at his home in February was seen pocketing drugs during an arrest three weeks earlier, an investigation found.

Officer Nicholas Meserve, 34, was assisting Maine state troopers during a traffic stop on Jan. 18, when he was seen pocketing drug evidence that had fallen on the ground, Lewiston police Lt. David St. Pierre said Thursday.

The drug seized during that traffic stop, which resulted in one arrest, was fentanyl, St. Pierre said.

On Feb. 8, Meserve found dead in his Webster Street home from an accidental fentanyl overdose.

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

Lewiston police Chief Brian T. O’Malley said that no officers within his department had knowledge of Meserve’s substance use disorder nor his possession of narcotics.

O’Malley has said 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.”

“This is 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 Thursday.

O’Malley said that the city is still 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.

In a report released April 18, the Maine attorney general’s office said 354 Mainers died as a result of a drug overdose in 2018, 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.

The investigation into Meserve’s death was conducted by the Maine State Police, the Maine Drug Enforcement Agency and the Maine attorney general’s office.