The drunk driver who hit and killed a Johnson County sheriff’s deputy in 2016 was sentenced Friday to 12 years and six months in prison — the maximum allowed.
Master Deputy Brandon Collins was conducting a traffic stop along U.S. 69 in Overland Park on Sept. 11, 2016, when a pickup truck driven by Adrian Espinosa-Flores slammed into the back of the deputy’s parked patrol vehicle.
The patrol vehicle was pushed into the vehicle that had been stopped and a fire broke out. Collins was killed, and three people in the vehicle he had pulled over were injured.
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“With all of my heart I ask that you forgive me,” Espinosa-Flores, 39, said through an interpreter in court Friday.
In October, he pleaded guilty in Johnson County District Court to reckless second-degree murder and three counts of aggravated battery.
One of those injured in the incident, Ricardo Lopez, spoke at Friday’s sentencing about the physical and psychological injuries he, his wife and particularly his daughter have endured.
Lopez’s wife was driving that night, and Collins had pulled them over because of a broken light. In their brief encounter, Lopez said Collins was laughing and being playful with his daughter.
The deputy had just walked back to his vehicle when Lopez said he heard a “big explosion” and the family’s car was hit.
“There was a lot of fire,” Lopez said through an interpreter. He said he tried to help Collins, but the flames were too intense.
Lopez said he believed that Collins had parked his patrol vehicle in such a way as to shield his family’s vehicle from danger.
“I will always be thankful to Officer Brandon,” he said.
Collins was married and had two daughters. His wife and mother were not in the courtroom but had statements read by other people.
His father, Bill Collins, died of a heart attack about eight weeks after his son was killed, and family members said they believed he could not bear the pain of his son’s death.
“I watched my brother basically lose the will to live,” said Joe Collins, the uncle of Deputy Collins. “I’m convinced he died of a broken heart.”
Capt. Mark Rokusek of the sheriff’s office read a statement from the deputy’s mother, Jana Ostrander: “Every day I wake up with my heart aching for my son,” she said.
Ostrander also said that she cannot bring herself to hate Espinosa-Flores. “There is not enough space in my heart for hatred, only longing for my son,” she said.
Rokusek agreed with her sentiment: “This isn’t about hate. This is about justice.” He asked for the maximum possible sentences, as did members of the Collins family.
District Judge Thomas Sutherland imposed the maximum sentences allowed under Kansas law and ordered that they run consecutively to each other.
Espinosa-Flores, who is in the country illegally, will be taken into custody by immigration officials after completing his prison sentence and be deported to Mexico.
After his arrest, he told police that he had been drinking beer at a friend’s house in Belton and was driving home to Kansas City, Kan.
Officers conducted field sobriety tests and a preliminary breath test showed that Espinosa-Flores’ blood-alcohol content was .160, according to court documents. That is twice the legal limit in Kansas.
Espinosa-Flores had at least one prior DUI conviction, according to court records.