Tanner Brownlee had a plan: Raise some cash so he could buy his dad’s old patrol car at a charity auction on Wednesday in Greeley, Colo.

The 19-year-old’s father, Weld County Sheriff’s Deputy Sam Brownlee, died in the line of duty in 2010. And that old Dodge Charger the deputy drove was more than just a car to Tanner and his brother, Chase, 16. Tanner has a few of his father’s mementos, including a motorcycle jacket, given to him the day his father died. “Just everything I can get means a lot to me,” he told WKBW.

So the brothers launched a GoFundMe campaign, raising $3,340 so Tanner could try to buy the Charger.

But the bids went far beyond Tanner’s means, as WKBW reported. Local rancher Steve Wells made the winning bid of $60,000, much higher than the Kelly Blue Book value of $12,500.

Wells then took the keys and turned to Tanner: “Here’s your car,” Wells told Tanner, CBS affiliate KCNC reported.


“This is just so huge. I mean, me and my dad built a fence and stuff, but having something I can use and drive around that he drove around, it just means a lot,” Tanner old the CBS station.

Brownlee took special care of the car, which was one of few Chargers assigned to deputies. “The agency didn’t really want anyone who wasn’t authorized to drive one of the new Chargers,” Cpl. Gerald Porter told the Greeley Tribune. “Sam took that responsibility very seriously; he loved that car. If there was anything wrong with it, we were on top of it. He was very interested in keeping it in great condition.”

On the GoFundMe page, Tanner wrote that he saw the car was going to be auctioned to raise money for Concerns of Police Survivors, a group that helps fallen officers’ families. From the page:

I understand there will be a lot of high bidders, but, I am willing to do what it takes to get this car. It meant a lot to my dad and he cared so much for it. I think if anyone should be able to gain such an incredible honor to own such a special vehicle, it would be me or my little brother. I personally, being his son, would want someone I trust to have this car and take care of it. My father’s police car is something he was very much attached to and to someone else it may just be some car. But to me, it was my dad’s.

Brownlee, 43, had been with the department for five years. In November 2010, he was involved in a high-speed chase after a man suspected of stealing a car. The chase ended with the suspect fighting officers, taking Brownlee’s gun and shooting him three times, the Denver Post reported, citing police.


“He was one of the nicest, most respected guys I know,” Weld County Sheriff John Cooke said after Brownlee died. “A great deputy and this is such a tragic loss.”

Tanner was just 15 at the time. From the Greeley Tribune:

Although Sam Brownlee was an admired gear head by his friends, among his other notable characteristics, Tanner said he and his dad never had the opportunity to tackle a car or a motorcycle project together. Taking care of his father’s treasured Charger wouldn’t completely fill that void, but it would be a close second.
“I remember he was always cleaning it when he brought it home during the week,” Tanner said. “He absolutely loved that car. I want to honor his legacy by showing him I’m growing into a man and that I can handle the responsibility of taking care of his car.”

Thanks to Wells, who declined several interview requests from local stations, a shocked Tanner got that chance.

After the auction, Tanner went out to the parking lot and climbed into the car that meant so much to his dad, and to him.