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Johnson County mourns deputy killed by suspected drunken driver

Just hours after celebrating his daughter’s fourth birthday, a Johnson County Sheriff’s deputy with nearly 21 years on the job died in a fiery crash early Sunday when a suspected drunken driver slammed the rear of his patrol car while the officer conducted a traffic stop.

Master Deputy Brandon Collins had pulled over a vehicle about 1:30 a.m. on northbound U.S. 69 near West 143rd Street, according to Darla Jaye, public information officer for the sheriff’s office.

Within minutes of the stop, a pickup truck slammed into the back of the patrol car, engulfing it in flames. The sound of the impact woke up nearby residents with what some said sounded as loud as thunder.

The driver of the truck ran from the scene. Police dogs brought to the area captured a suspect a short time later. He was taken to a hospital for treatment of injuries.

Collins, 45, would have celebrated his 21st anniversary with the department next month, Jaye said. He’s married and has two daughters.

“He was very much loved,” Jaye said. “He’s worked in several different areas of the sheriff’s office over the years. …

“He was kind, fair and funny,” she said. “He never met anyone who didn’t become a quick friend.”

Over the years, Collins worked detention, narcotics and most recently the uniformed patrol division, which was described as a very tight-knit group.

“Brandon was a very vibrant type of person,” said Johnson County Sheriff Frank Denning. “He didn’t know a stranger and a stranger got to know him fairly well.”

Collins had a great family, Denning said, and he was dedicated to his law enforcement work.

“He was one of those guys you just liked to be around, whether he was a personal friend or a professional friend,” Denning said. “For me, he was just an outstanding deputy sheriff. His job, his life, his family — all of those things were first. That’s the hardest part this morning.”

Denning attended a First Responder’s Day Sunday morning at the College Church of the Nazarene in Olathe. The church held a ceremony to honor those serving the community and the nation in remembrance of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. They honored Collins during the ceremony.

“The significance of all this is that he was out doing his job as a first responder this morning,” Denning said. “We were here today not knowing that we would be celebrating his life as well and being recognized as a first responder for his contributions to the community.”

The church honored Collins with its first memorial coins. Olathe had also declared Sunday as First Responder Appreciation Day. The coin and proclamation were being passed on to Collins’ family.

Collins is the third Kansas City area law enforcement officer to die in the line of duty this year. Kansas City, Kan., police Capt. Robert Melton was fatally shot on July 19 and Detective Brad Lancaster was fatally shot on May 9.

Police closed U.S. 69 in both directions while they investigated the crash.

Flags at the Johnson County Sheriff’s office were lowered to half staff on Sunday. Law enforcement throughout the area offered their condolences, including through tweets.

Collins is the third line-of-duty death for the Johnson County Sheriff’s office. In April 1971, Detective Gerald A. Foote was killed in an automobile accident. And in June 1952, Deputy Willard N. Carver was fatally shot.

“Anytime an American policeman passes, especially in the line of duty, I think it takes a little bit from all of us,” Denning said. “It takes a little bit from the community and it surely takes little bit from our agency. You lose a piece of your heart. You lose a piece of your soul.”

The Star’s Joe Ledford contributed to this report.

Robert A. Cronkleton: 816-234-4261, @cronkb

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