Patrick Sullivan, disgraced former Arapahoe County sheriff, dies at 78

Former five-term Arapahoe County Sheriff Patrick Sullivan died May 1, the coroner’s office for Adams and Broomfield counties confirmed Monday. He was 78.

Sullivan served as sheriff between 1984 and 2002, and was considered a local law enforcement legend — the jail was named after him — until 2011, when he was arrested and charged with trading methamphetamine for sex after he was caught in an undercover sting by his own former agency.

Sullivan had become a hero to some for his anti-drug crusades during his tenure as the top cop in Arapahoe County. He also was applauded in 1989 when he drove a Jeep through the fence of an Arapahoe County home to rescue two deputies and a wounded 17-year-old boy who had been taken hostage by a rape and murder suspect armed with a machine gun.

Sullivan’s rapid fall from grace shocked the law enforcement community, and court documents painted a picture of a man who lived a double life for years — running the sheriff’s office while also using illegal drugs, meeting young men for sex and attempting to leverage his position in law enforcement to his personal advantage.

In 2012, Sullivan pleaded guilty to felony possession of methamphetamine and soliciting prostitution and was initially sentenced to 30 days in jail and two years of probation. In 2014, however, he was re-sentenced to 15 months in prison after he repeatedly violated his probation by missing or tampering with urine samples. Sullivan at the time apologized and told the judge he’d “had a drug problem” for a long time.

His cause of death was not immediately available, and his daughter did not return a request for comment.

After retiring from the sheriff’s office, Sullivan worked as the head of security for Cherry Creek Schools until 2008.

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