Calif. sheriff's deputy dies in crash during pursuit

Deputy Ken Collier's vehicle plunged down a freeway embankment


Associated Press

SAN DIEGO, Calif. — A deputy chasing a wrong-way driver was killed in a crash Sunday after his patrol vehicle hit a bridge abutment and plunged down a freeway embankment, San Diego County Sheriff William Gore said.

Deputy Ken Collier, 39, died at a hospital shortly after the 3:22 a.m. wreck, Gore said. Ryan Debellis, a county dispatcher who was riding along, was injured.

An allegedly drunken driver who was the subject of the chase was arrested near the site of the crash. Gore said Jose Jasso Lopez, 23, will be charged with vehicular manslaughter and drunken driving.

The crash occurred when the deputy made a U-turn onto an eastbound auxiliary lane on the median of Route 52 between Santee and Tierrasanta. While chasing the suspect, Collier's marked Ford Expedition crashed into the bridge abutment and went over the side.

Collier's civilian passenger, who was being treated at a hospital Sunday, is expected to make a full recovery, Gore said.

"It's a tragedy anytime anyone in law enforcement loses his life. To have it happen to one of your own, in your own department, it's especially traumatic," Gore said. "Everyone is trying to pull together. We have a strong peer support network and everyone is helping one another."

Collier became a deputy in 2000 when the Sheriff's Department merged with the San Diego County Marshal's Office. Before that he served as a marshal for three years.

Collier was engaged to be married, Gore said.

Debellis, a county dispatcher, was being given a ride to the county communications center to begin his shift when the crash occurred.

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