Emotions spilled into tears in San Diego Superior Court Friday afternoon, as a wrong-way driver was sentenced in connection with the fatal crash of a Sheriff's deputy who was trying to stop him.
Jose Pedro Lopez, 23, was sentenced to 6 years in prison, plus an additional year for a DUI-caused vehicular death and another 8 months for having a weapon in jail.
Prosecutors say Lopez was under the influence of alcohol, marijuana and methamphetamine in the foggy, early-morning darkness of last February 28th, when started driving eastbound on westbound SR-52.
During his sentencing hearing family and friends of Collier talked about the impact of his death.
"I stare at his grave; I sit in an empty house," said Collier's fiancée Karen Li. "I hug his clothes and I just try to remember what his voice sounds like. What his touch feels like. Because I don't want to forget."
Deputy Kenneth Collier made a U-turn to chase Lopez and got within 20 yards of Lopez when his cruiser hit a bridge abutment, caught fire, and tumbled hundreds of feet into a ravine. Deputy Collier was ejected from his vehicle and died of his injuries.
Lopez told the CHP he thought he was on I-5 and said he was looking to turn around after realizing he was going wrong-way.
During his hearing Lopez spoke to the judge and Colliers friends and family.
"The magnitude of his loss is with me every day and I try to put myself in you guys' position to understand how you must be feeling," Lopez said. "I know I can't begin to feel what you've been feeling."
In October, Lopez pleaded guilty to gross vehicular manslaughter and related charges, and faced up to nearly 12 years in prison at today's sentencing.
Once he's paroled, Lopez be deported to Mexico for illegal entry into the U.S.