Hundreds of cars lined up with law enforcement from all over Southern California on Saturday to remember Deputy Sheriff Ken Collier.
"Ken was a large guy with a large personality," said Sheriff Bill Gore. "He had a great sense of humor. He was a real professional. He loved being a deputy sheriff."
The 39-year-old was killed Sunday while chasing down a wrong way driver on State Route 52. The deputy's car plunged off the freeway for hundreds of feet. Collier was ejected and died later at the hospital. A dispatcher he was driving to work survived the crash.
Saturday, a line of law enforcement vehicles drove the 16 miles from Qualcomm Stadium to El Cajon where a funeral was held at Shadow Mountain Community Church. People watched the procession from the overpasses on interstate 8. Others lined up on the sidewalk outside the church.
"It's sad," said one man watching. "The guy was out there doing his job."
The woman next to that man had a personal connection.
"I don't know," she said fighting back tears, "My boyfriend was his partner. So, it's sad."
Collier's casket was brought into the church while bagpipes played and a line of law enforcement officers saluted.
Collier was engaged to be married this coming June on his 40th birthday in Hawaii.
This is the first deputy the department has lost in the line of duty since 1997. Sheriff Gore said they've brought in counselors to help the department deal with the loss.
"It's just a difficult time," said Gore, "You've got to share your emotions, not keep them to yourself, get it out and work through it."
Jose Pedro Lopez Jasso was drunk and high on marijuana when he drove on the wrong way of State Route 52 Sunday, prosecutors alleged at his arraignment Wednesday.
Deputy Collier chased after the suspect, heading west on SR 52 using the shoulder for as far as he could before the shoulder ran out and the deputy’s car plunged 400 to 500 feet into a ravine. When deputies arrived, the patrol car was on fire up a steep embankment between Mast Blvd. and Santo Rd.
“Everybody obviously is very shaken by this. Our last on-duty death was deputy sheriff Pat Coyle back in 1997,” Sheriff Gore said.
Jasso, 22, faces charges of gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated, driving under the influence causing injury, driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol and a misdemeanor of driving the wrong way on a divided highway.
Damon Moser with the district attorney’s office requested bail at $500,000 arguing that the defendant is a Mexican national with an immigration hold and should be considered a flight risk.
Judge Brannigan set bail at $750,000.
A memorial fund has been set up for the Collier Family. You may donate to the fund at any San Diego County Credit Union to the Kenneth J. Collier Memorial Fund.