Driver in fiery crash that killed deputy faces preliminary hearing

An allegedly drunken wrong-way driver accused of triggering a pursuit that climaxed with the fiery death of a San Diego County sheriff’s deputy is scheduled for a preliminary hearing Tuesday.

Jose Pedro Lopez Jasso, 22, is charged with gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated, DUI causing death and a misdemeanor charge of driving the wrong way on the freeway in the Feb. 28 death of sheriff’s Deputy Ken Collier, 39.

Deputy District Attorney Damon Mosler said Jasso drove impaired for at least an hour after leaving a bar in Oceanside, where he drank alcohol and smoked marijuana.

Mosler said Collier was headed east on state Route 52 just after 3 a.m. when he noticed Jasso’s car going the wrong way on the freeway.

The deputy made a U-turn and gave chase, driving on the fast-lane shoulder of the road before hitting a bridge abutment and crashing 500-600 feet down a ravine, Mosler said.

When Jasso was pulled over a mile down the road, he admitted drinking and smoking marijuana and said he thought he was on Interstate 5 near Carlsbad, the prosecutor said.

Collier, who was engaged to be married, died after being flown to a hospital. A county dispatcher riding with the victim, Ryan Debellis, suffered minor injuries.

Witnesses said it was foggy and the roads were wet at the time of the crash.

Mosler said the defendant was a Mexican citizen who has been deported before.

At the end of the preliminary hearing, a judge will decide if enough evidence was presented for the case to proceed to trial.

Jasso faces a maximum 11 years in prison if convicted.