Coach, teacher placed on leave

by Carolyn Sackariason, Aspen Daily News Staff Writer

An Aspen Middle School teacher was put on paid administrative leave Monday, following his arrest over the weekend for cocaine possession and drunk driving.

Fifth grade teacher Bruce Johnson, 45, was arrested at 12:46 a.m. on Saturday after being pulled over for speeding on Highway 82 near Stage Road.

According to the police report, Aspen officer Ryan Turner observed a six-pack of Budweiser on the floor of the vehicle’s passenger side with four bottles missing and a strong odor of alcohol emanating.

Turner asked Johnson to perform a voluntary roadside sobriety test, which he agreed to but did not perform as the officer instructed, according to the police report.

Johnson, who also is a driver’s education teacher, a coach and a representative of the Aspen Skiers’ basketball and football teams, was placed under arrest. Turner asked him if he had any drugs or weapons on him, and Johnson said he did not. Turner searched Johnson and found nothing illegal on his person. Turner then removed all of Johnson’s property on him and placed it into a paper bag for transport to the jail.

But once at the jail, Pitkin County Jail deputy Jill Costigan, conducting a more thorough inventory search of Johnson’s belongings, told Turner she found two “bindles” — one inside a match book and one in a match box. Turner then opened the bindle in the match book and found a white powdery substance, which turned out to be cocaine. The other bindle appeared to be empty. Aspen police officials couldn’t say how much cocaine was in the bindle.


At the jail, Johnson submitted to a breathalyzer, which indicated his blood alcohol level to be .134. The legal limit to drive is .08.

Johnson faces two felonies — unlawful possession of a controlled substance, a class 6 felony, and introducing contraband in the first degree, a class 4 felony. The latter charge is because he knowingly brought drugs into the jail, allegedly.

Johnson also faces a DUI misdemeanor charge and a speeding infraction.

Johnson, a Snowmass resident, on Monday declined to comment other than to say, “I apologize to any people I’ve affected.”

Aspen Schools Superintendent John Maloy issued a statement on Monday regarding Johnson’s status as an educator in the district.

“Mr. Bruce Johnson has been placed on administrative leave pending an internal investigation of the incident in which he was involved over the weekend. To our knowledge, the incident involving Mr. Johnson did not involve students. The district will allow the process to run its due course before a determination is made. 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.”

This is Johnson’s first year as a fifth grade teacher. For the past four years, Johnson, known as “Mr. B,” taught fourth grade in the elementary school. He also taught in special education.