Driver in Englewood officer’s death gets 10 years

Englewood Police Office Jeremy Bitner who died in the line of duty after being hit by an alleged drunk driver. Courtesy photo
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After reading volumes of material and listening to hours of testimony, Judge Marilyn Antrim sentenced Conner Donohue to up to 10 years in prison for the night he drove drunk, hit and killed an Englewood police officer, and drove away.

Donohue was sentenced May 31 in Arapahoe District Court. On May 28, 2012, he was at the wheel of his truck when, according to testimony, he sideswiped a police car on South Broadway and hit Officer Jeremy Bitner and Littleton resident Kevin Montoya.

Bitner suffered fatal head injuries and Montoya was seriously injured. Donohue was arrested a short distance away, and his blood alcohol level, taken more than an hour after the crash, was more than three times the legal limit.

In February, Donohue entered a guilty plea to four felony counts in the case.

At the sentencing hearing, the courtroom was full, as was an adjacent courtroom where the court proceedings could be watched on a large screen.

Donohue’s friends and family filled about half the seats in the courtroom. Eight of his friends or family members spoke and asked he not be sent to prison but be allowed to speak to students and groups of young people about what can happen if you drive while intoxicated.

Donohue testified in his own behalf, apologizing to the community, the Bitner family and the Englewood Police Department. He said he hurt many people and deserved to die and asked that the sentence he deserved be handed down.

Family, co-workers and friends of Bitner, who was posthumously promoted to detective, filled the other half of the courtroom. Several family members, including Bitner’s wife Tina, spoke at the hearing, as did several members of the Englewood Police Department. They all asked that Donohue receive a lengthy prison term.

In her testimony, Tina Bitner said both families are grieving because of what happened but, no matter the sentence, Donohue would have a second chance, while her husband was killed and won’t have a second chance. “Grief constantly is like an unwanted guest in our home,” she said. She pleaded for justice.

There was a PowerPoint presentation of evidence in the case, including the fact that Donohue had a blood alcohol level of .252 percent when he was tested. It was also noted that Donohue was 20 years old at the time and wasn’t supposed to be drinking.

George Brauchler, district attorney for the 18th Judicial District, asked for a substantial sentence to be imposed that will impact people’s decisions so they won’t drink and drive.

Antrim listed reasons for her decision and then sentenced Donohue to eight years in prison on the count of vehicular homicide and two years in prison on the count of vehicular assault. She also ordered those sentences to be served consecutively. She then sentenced Donohue to eight years in prison for leaving the scene of an accident causing death and two years for leaving the scene of an accident causing serious bodily injury. Those sentences are to be served concurrently with the first two sentences.

The judge also sentenced Donohue to 365 days in the county jail for driving under the influence of alcohol. That, too, was to be served concurrently with the first two prison sentences.

Englewood Police Chief John Collins said after the sentencing: “There’s no winner today. This is just awful.”