Weld rancher outbids Brownlee sons in cruiser auction, then hands them the keys | MyWindsorNow.com

Weld rancher outbids Brownlee sons in cruiser auction, then hands them the keys

Joe Moylan

When Tanner and Chase Brownlee went to the Weld County Sheriff's Office on Wednesday afternoon, they had a ceiling of $15,000 to try to purchase their father's old vehicle, a retired 2010 Dodge Charger police cruiser.

After learning about the auction earlier this week, Tanner started a Go Fund Me account to solicit donations and raised about $3,000 in less than 48 hours. He planned to use an additional $12,000 his father, Weld County Sheriff's Office Deputy Sam Brownlee, left him after he was killed in the line of duty following a high-speed chase in November 2010.

Tanner opened Wednesday's auction with a $2,500 bid. Within moments, the bidding surpassed his budget. He gave his mother, Cindy Price, a look that said, "I tried," and they began to tear up.

"After the bidding went past my limit, there really wasn't anything I could do about it," Tanner said. "I had to just let it go and get over it."

“I couldn’t even put it into words. I just broke down crying.

— Tanner Brownlee, son of Weld County sheriff’s deputy killed in the line of duty

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The Brownlees stayed and watched in amazement as Sam's Charger, which featured 147,000 miles and a Kelly Blue Book value of $12,500, attracted bids of $30,000, then $40,000 and $50,000. When auctioneer Mike Olearnick — who donated his time for the event — finally yelled "sold," Weld County rancher Steve Wells had won the retired cruiser with a bid of $60,000. He walked up to Weld County Sheriff Steve Reams to accept the keys and promptly turned them over to Tanner.

Aside from a handshake and a brief conversation before the auction started, Tanner and Wells had never met before in their lives.

"He just turned to me and said, 'Tanner, here's your car,' " Tanner said. "I couldn't even put it into words. I just broke down crying. I wasn't expecting Steve to hand me the keys after spending $60,000."

After answering a barrage of questions from reporters, Tanner and his family filled out some paperwork to finalize the deal. Then he climbed behind the wheel and drove the Charger back to the place where Sam Brownlee spent countless hours cleaning and maintaining his vehicle when he'd bring it home during his work week.

"I kept having these little moments picturing my dad in the driver's seat," Tanner said of his drive home. "What Steve did was so nice. It was awesome. I'll probably never have an experience like this again."

In addition to the $60,000 raised during the auction, which benefits Concerns of Police Survivors, the sheriff's office also received donations from Martin Lind of the Colorado Eagles, and Eaton business Reck Flyers LLC. Tanner donated the $3,000 he raised on Go Fund Me to the cause as well, bringing the total amount raised for C.O.P.S. to about $70,000, said Cpl. Sean Standridge, spokesman for the Weld sheriff's office.

About Concerns of Police Survivors

C.O.P.S. is a national organization with a chapter in Colorado that provides resources to assist surviving family members and affected co-workers of law enforcement officers who have died in the line of duty.