Officers attempted to disable the stolen vehicle but were unsuccessful. The pursuit eventually came to an end when the car’s tire blew out. The suspect’s car was then encircled by officers, at which point the suspect had nowhere to run and turned to violence. Shots were fired and Brownlee was hit. Tragically, the officer didn’t survive his injuries. He left behind his second wife and two stepchildren as well as two biological sons, Tanner and Chase, from his first marriage.
The vehicle was a Dodge Charger. It had nearly 150,000 miles on the odometer, and its sale was in aid of Concerns of Police Survivors (C.O.P.S.), an organization that gives support to families of officers killed while on duty. In other words, people just like Tanner, Chase and their mom.
“This is kind of the end of Sam’s legacy here,” County Sheriff Steve Reams told WKBW. “It’s the last tangible thing we have that he was connected to.” So not only was the charity benefitting from the auction close to the Brownlees’ hearts, but the car itself was, too.
Yet even though Tanner had never taken part in an auction before, he wasn’t about to let that stop him. The fallen cop’s son had a scheme all worked out. “I think I’m just going to look around, see what everyone else is doing and try to copy them. Just up them by one,” he said. So it wasn’t much of a plan, but it was a plan nonetheless.
But that opening offer was quickly trumped. In fact, the bids soon sailed past Kelley Blue Book’s valuation and rapidly doubled and then quadrupled. And as the price hit $50,000, it became apparent that Tanner had reached his limit. Any ideas he had of owning his dad’s car were gone.
As it happened, Steve Wells had something that he wanted to give to Tanner. Yes, no sooner had the rancher received the keys to his new vehicle than he turned to the person he’d outbid and said, “Tanner, here’s your car.” Incredibly, Steve had just spent $60,000 on a gift for a complete stranger.
At first, Steven Wells declined to be interviewed about why he’d gifted a car to a total stranger, preferring the focus to remain on Tanner. Eventually, though, the generous rancher broke his silence. “It never crossed my mind not to,” he told CBS4 in May 2015. “I wanted to hand the keys to that young man.”
“It’s no secret we’ve made a lot of money,” Steven admitted to CBS4. “I have been able to donate to things in a way that financially I never dreamt I could have and that’s important to me.” In fact, helping out others in need is important to the rancher on account of something personal that happened in his childhood.
“Here was a man who lost his life as a deputy sheriff for the people of Weld County,” Steve continued. “His son wanted something to remember him by and the fact that he could sit behind the wheel of the car and look through the same windshield his dad did was extremely important to me. It was just something I felt I had to do.”