ENGLEWOOD, Colo. - The Englewood police officer who was struck by a suspected drunk driver early Monday morning has died, police said.
Officer Jeremy Bitner, 39, is survived by his wife and two children, ages 7 and 9.
"I love Jeremy Bitner ... He was a class act and a fine officer. He very much wanted to move up in the organization and he was taking the steps to do that, but that was taken away from him," said Englewood police Chief John Collins, announcing the officer's death on Tuesday afternoon.
"Officer Bittner loved his job. He served his country and in the city of Englewood with dignity and honor. Jeremy continues to contribute to life through organ recovery," Collins said.
Collins said the death is especially poignant for the small department of 70 officers.
"It's a difficult time for a department of 70 or 700. We always liken ourselves to being in a family. We're a family who serves our city. And anytime we lose a member of our family, especially in this situation, it's nothing less than heartbreaking," Collins said.
Suspected Drunk Driver Struck Bitner, Fled, Police Said
Bitner pulled over a gray Mustang near the intersection of West Belleview Avenue and South Broadway just after midnight Monday.
During the stop, the driver got out of the car to talk with the officer. While they were talking, standing near Bitner's patrol vehicle, a white Nissan sport utility vehicle heading south on Broadway veered into the right hand lanes and hit both of them, Englewood Police Investigator Brad Johnson said.
“The (SUV) ... fled from the scene southbound and was eventually contacted approximately 3 or 4 miles south of here by the Littleton Police Department,” Johnson said.
The driver of the SUV was identified as 20-year-old Conner Donohue.
Donohue was arrested and being held for investigation of vehicular assault, driving under the influence and leaving the scene of a crash. He was later transported to the Arapahoe County Sheriff’s Detention facility and appeared in court on Tuesday.
Both Bitner and the other driver -- Kevin Montoya -- were taken to Swedish Hospital in critical condition. Montoya’s family told 7NEWS he has been upgraded to stable condition. He has injuries to his head and legs.
The Colorado State Patrol is investigating the case.
Officer Bitner An Army Vet, Served In Bosnia
Bitner was in the Army, and served in Bosnia as part of the Airborne Infantry division.
He was a deputy sheriff in the Elbert County Sheriff's Office and served for six months.
He was hired with the Englewood Police Department in December 2004, where he has worked as a patrol officer, a SWAT operator, a field training officer and instructor in the Citizen's Academy program.
He earned a commendation in 2005 and 2006 for disarming a suspect armed with a handgun.
"Officer Bitner received a medal of gallantry for disarming a suspect with a handgun of Aug. 13, 2006, and a certification of commendation for him and other officers for taking an armed suspect into custody on Jan. 30, 2005," Collins said.
Bitner had also earned an award earlier this year for safety.
A memorial fund has been set up in his name for his children at BellCo Credit Union.
The Englewood Police Department said it would provide more information on the memorial fund and funeral arrangements on its website.
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