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Senate leader Darrell Steinberg fired a Capitol peace officer late Thursday, after The Sacramento Bee asked legislative officials about court records showing the officer had cocaine in his system when he was involved in a December 2012 gunfight that left three people injured and one man dead.

Gerardo Lopez was a sworn peace officer and a member of the Senate's in-house law enforcement unit known as the sergeant-at-arms office. An employee of the Senate since 1999, Lopez lost his job roughly seven months after a preliminary hearing in Sacramento Superior Court revealed that he had consumed cocaine and marijuana the night he participated in the fatal shootout in front of his house.

Steinberg's office released the following statement late Thursday:

"This afternoon, the Senate president pro tem was briefed by the Senate's sergeant-at-arms about the details of an ongoing investigation concerning a law enforcement officer employed in the Senate. During that briefing, the Senate president pro tem was informed for the first time that a toxicology report referenced in court documents showed the presence of illegal substances in the employee's blood-stream. The employee, when questioned, confirmed the presence of illegal substances, notwithstanding the disputed circumstances under which they were consumed."

"While the facts in the case will be determined by the court, the presence of an illegal substance fall well below the standards expected of a law enforcement officer in the Senate. At the Senate president pro tem's direction, the employee's service in the Senate has been terminated, effective immediately."

PHOTO: Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, on March 11, 2013. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua


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