Colorado Man Gets 12 Years for Fiery Chase Crash

JEFFERSON COUNTY, Colo. --

A man was sentenced to 12 years in prison Wednesday for stealing a sport utility vehicle and leading Wheat Ridge police on a high-speed chase that ended when he slammed head-on into a patrol car, triggering a fiery explosion, authorities said.

Branden Kyle Winters, 23, had earlier pleaded guilty to vehicular eluding, second-degree assault and third-degree assault on a peace officer, said Pam Russell, spokeswoman for the Jefferson County District Attorney's Office.

Jefferson County District Court Judge Stephen Munsinger sentenced Winters to the maximum prison time, and ordered him to pay more than $60,000 in restitution, she said.

The case stems from a March 2, 2010, police pursuit of a stolen SUV that began when a transit bus driver called 911 to report an erratic driver.

When a Wheat Ridge officer tried to contact the SUV at a gas station at 3800 Kipling Street, Winters used the stolen vehicle to ram the patrol car, Russell said.

Winters sped off and the police chase continued with speeds reaching 80 mph, she said. Winters repeatedly rammed pursing police cars and hit other cars while trying to escape.

The chase ended when Winters drove head-on into a patrol car, causing both vehicles to explode into flames, Russell said. The police officer escaped without serious injury.

Winters took off on foot, broke into a nearby home and hid in a crawl space, she said.

When officers sent a police dog into the crawl space to find Winters, police said the man tried to strangle the dog, which bit Winters repeatedly on the arm.

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