Suspect in Deputy's Death Pleads Not Guilty

Deputy Ken Collier was chasing a wrong-way driver when he crashed

By R. Stickney
|  Wednesday, Mar 3, 2010  |  Updated 3:56 PM PDT
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Images: Deputy Killed in Fiery Pursuit Crash

Derek Togerson

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SDSO Deputy Killed in Crash

Deputy Ken Collier, 39, died chasing a wrong-way driver on State Route 52 early Sunday.

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The patrol car was unrecognizable.
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Deputies wearing black bands on their badges escorted the fiancée of San Diego County sheriff’s deputy Ken Collier into the courtroom Wednesday.

Deputy Ken Collier, 39, died after his patrol car crashed into a bridge abutment and rolled hundreds of feet down a freeway embankment early Sunday morning.

She sat in the front row, sobbing and holding the hand of another deputy while the man accused in Collier's stood just a few feet away and pleaded not guilty.

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.

“Deputy Collier radioed dispatch using his handheld radio while dispatcher Ryan Debillis used his cell phone to notifying the Communications Center they had crashed in a ravine and needed help,” Lt. Turner said.

When deputies arrived, the patrol car was on fire up a steep embankment between Mast Blvd. and Santo Rd.

After an extremely difficult rescue effort, Deputy Collier and Debillis were both responsive but seriously injured. Collier was taken to Sharp Memorial Hospital. He died at 5:30 a.m. Debellis is expected to make a full recovery.     

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.

It was an emotionally-charged courtroom with more than 50 people, many of them crying, including some off-duty deputies.

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.

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