Southwest Washington officer confiscated illegal drugs on day of his fatal overdose


Battle Ground Police Sgt. Richard Kelly confiscated illegal drugs during a call prior to suffering a fatal overdose in August 2023, the Cowlitz County Sheriff’s Office found in an external review of the incident.

According to the report, Kelly had responded to a call prior to his shift and had confiscated the drugs, which later tested positive for methamphetamine and fentanyl.

The Cowlitz County Sheriff’s Office conducted an investigation of Kelly’s death at former Battle Ground Police Chief Mike Fort’s request. Fort wanted to know “what happened, what was done about it, and what, if any, changes are recommended to prevent any future occurrences,” per the Cowlitz report.

Kelly was found in medical distress at his desk on Aug. 10, 2023. First aid was rendered immediately, but he never regained consciousness and died after being transported to a hospital, the report states.

During the morning of Aug. 10, 2023, officers with the BGPD responded to a report of a vehicle prowl near Northwest Ninth Street and North Parkway Avenue. During that time, officers recovered suspected drugs and two firearms from a vehicle, the report states. Kelly also responded to the incident prior to his own shift, and according to the report, Kelly logged numerous illicit drugs, drug paraphernalia and firearms into evidence upon return to the police department.

Later in the afternoon on Aug. 10, a lieutenant found Kelly unresponsive at his desk.

The Clark County Medical Examiner determined Kelly’s death to be accidental, with the cause of death labeled as a combined toxic effect of fentanyl and methamphetamine, the report stated.

“A toxicology report showed the presence of methamphetamine, amphetamine [a metabolite of methamphetamine], fentanyl, norfentanyl [a metabolite of fentanyl], and 4-ANPP [a precursor chemical used in production of fentanyl, which can also be a metabolite of fentanyl] in both Sgt. Kelly’s blood and urine samples,” the report states. “The presence of these drugs and metabolites in both the blood and urine samples confirms these items had been consumed some hours before Sgt. Kelly was found.”

In addition to the toxicology report, methamphetamine was not recovered from Sgt. Kelly’s office. The substance recovered from his office was described as a white powdery substance, which tested positive for fentanyl, according to the report.

“The lab results, the substances recovered from Sgt. Kelly’s desk and the rolled up straw, in combination with fentanyl being found in one of Sgt. Kelly’s nostrils, indicate Sgt. Kelly had intentionally ingested drugs, leading to his overdose and death,” the report stated.

The Cowlitz County report further added the findings suggested he consumed “a quantity of at least two of the seized drug items that he logged into evidence on the morning of Aug. 10, 2023.”

In a Vancouver Police Department detective’s review of BGPD surveillance video, it was noted Kelly entered and exited the evidence room several times and had been seen carrying an evidence envelope into other areas of the police department, the report stated. Kelly would have had access to remove quantities of the recovered drugs during these times. The report added there had been one line of white powder on Kelly’s desk and the residue of another line that appeared to have been consumed.

Initial incident

At roughly 4:30 a.m. on Aug. 10, two BGPD officers responded to the vehicle prowl call. The vehicle was blocking a roadway. Both officers had years of law enforcement experience but were fresh to Battle Ground. When the officers arrived, they could see firearms and an open backpack containing plastic bags within the vehicle, the report stated. Officers submitted a records check on the vehicle that provided information that the registered owner of the vehicle was a convicted felon and lived at the address the car appeared to have rolled from, the report added.

One of the officers — an acting supervisor that morning — called Kelly, who was not on shift yet, and said that he planned to seek a search warrant for the vehicle, but Kelly advised the officer needed to investigate the vehicle further, the report stated. After the vehicle owners came out of their house, the officer ended the call with Kelly. While officers were talking to the residents, they said they heard Kelly radio he was coming to the scene. Kelly came on duty prior to this scheduled start time and responded directly to the incident from home, according to the report.

The report stated that the residents wouldn’t let officers search their vehicle. They ultimately agreed to turn over the firearms and suspected drugs inside the vehicle after telling officers that others had utilized the vehicle prior and the items did not belong to them.

An officer told Cowlitz investigators that they planned to close the case because they didn’t have enough evidence as to whom the items belonged. The officer assumed Kelly would log the drugs and firearms for destruction, which was said to be a common practice for inactive cases, according to the report.

In an interview with one of the officers on scene, the officer was quoted saying in the report, “Drugs don’t seem to be a big issue in Washington state.”

The vehicle prowl contact by BGPD prior to Kelly’s overdose was not the first instance of Kelly responding to an illicit drug call, according to records.

Kelly was involved in two cases where a large quantity of drugs had been recovered within a three-month period, the report noted. He made no effort to influence a criminal prosecution with either case, the report added.


The Cowlitz report stated BGPD officers would benefit from more training regarding drug laws and street crime investigations and recommended reviewing BGPD’s drug cases to determine if they should have been further investigated for criminal prosecution.

The Cowlitz report also dug into a prior investigation into a domestic violence allegation against Kelly in November 2022, but his wife later renounced her allegation. No evidence was found that Kelly had assaulted his wife, and the investigation was closed.

Investigators also found that Kelly struggled with addiction with alcohol and pain medications, mostly,  at home, according to the report.

“Addressing the substance abuse allegations during the internal investigation could have resulted in a referral to employee assistance programs,” the report stated. “An awareness of potential substance abuse issues could also lead to monitoring for any drug and alcohol policy violations at work.”

The report stated, after Kelly’s overdose death, BGPD changed its drug-handling policies and requested additional cameras within the evidence rooms.

In addition to the Cowlitz County Sheriff’s Office review, the Vancouver Police Department completed a death investigation while Clark County Sheriff’s Office audited BGPD’s evidence facilities and procedures.