ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (CBS4)– A police officer in Englewood is recovering after a drunk driver crashed into her cruiser late Thursday night.

That crash is a sad reminder for officers in Englewood where another drunk driving crash took the life of one of their own, Detective Jeremy Bitner.

Officer Jeremy Bitner (credit: Englewood Police Department)

Officer Jeremy Bitner (credit: Englewood Police Department)

Police say it’s also a reminder for those drivers this Labor Day holiday weekend about the dangers of drinking and driving.

It was a routine traffic stop that ended with an Englewood Police officer in the hospital. She was sitting in her patrol car processing paperwork just before midnight Thursday on the border of Englewood city limits and Cherry Hills Village.

“She activated her emergency equipment, made a stop at a safe place,” said Cherry Hills Village Police Sgt. Patrick Wilson.

That’s when Robert Vangildern, 28, allegedly slammed into the back of her cruiser. The impact forced the patrol car into the vehicle in front of her.

Police suspect that Vangildern had been drinking but he didn’t get very far.

“As luck would have it, one of our officers actually witnessed the accident and was coming to stop to help an officer and he witnessed the accident and immediately took the man into custody,” said Wilson.

For both Englewood and Cherry Hills Village police, the close call brought back memories of Bitner, who died two years ago while on duty. He was struck by an underaged drunk driver, Conner Donahue, who is serving a 10-year prison sentence.

Officers say both cases are cautionary tales of the dangers of impaired driving.

“Certainly never, ever drive under the influence. Be very careful. Your vehicle is equipped with multiple safety devices, but the biggest one is you, the driver,” said Wilson.

The Englewood Police officer’s name is not being released. She is out of the hospital and home, resting. She suffered a back injury but will hopefully be back on duty next week.


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