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Rancher Who Handed Over Fallen Deputy's Car At Emotional Auction Shares His Story

WELD COUNTY, Colo. (CBS4) - The story about a Weld County auction has touched hearts around the world. Ever since Colorado rancher Steve Wells bought a fallen deputy's cruiser and gave the keys to the deputy's son, Wells has received numerous requests for interviews to learn more about who he is and why he spent $60,000 on a gift for a stranger.

Steve Wells
CBS4's Kelly Werthmann talks with Steve Wells (credit: CBS)

Speaking exclusively with CBS4's Kelly Werthmann, Wells explained why he wanted to buy the retired cruiser for Tanner Brownlee, the son of Deputy Sam Brownlee, who was killed in the line of duty in 2010.

"It never crossed my mind not to," Wells said. "I wanted to hand the keys to that young man."

Tanner Brownlee
(credit: CBS)

In order to understand why, you must first understand his story. Wells owns a 32,000 acre ranch in Northern Colorado and makes a living off his land. A few years ago a large portion of his property became a site for oil and gas drilling.

"It's no secret we've made a lot of money," Wells said. "I have been able to donate to things in a way that financially I never dreamt I could have and that's very important to me."

Tanner Brownlee
(credit: CBS)

Wells says giving is important to him because of a special gift he was given when he was a child.

"I'm adopted," Wells said. "And being adopted you have a different perspective on life. I look back and I could've been raised in foster care, my mother could've had an abortion, I mean, there were so many different things that could've happened during the course of my life.

"I was adopted by outstanding parents. I couldn't ask for anything more and I've always felt that need to give back."

Steve Wells
Steve Wells (credit; CBS)

When Wells learned of the special auction of the fallen deputy's retired patrol car, he knew he found a perfect opportunity to give back in a big way.

"Here was a man who lost his life as a deputy sheriff for the people of Weld County," Wells said. "His son wanted something to remember his dad by and the fact that that young man could sit behind the wheel of that car and look through the windshield that his dad did was extremely important to me. It was just something I felt I had to do."

Tanner Brownlee
(credit: CBS)

The moment Wells gave Tanner Brownlee his late father's car, he created the perfect ending to one story and a touching beginning to another.

"When the auction was over and I walked up and I handed him those keys. That is a lifetime moment. It was for him and it was for me," Wells said. "That was a moment that, for me, meant everything."

Kelly Werthmann joined the CBS4 team in 2012 as the morning reporter, covering national stories like the Aurora Theater Shooting and devastating Colorado wildfires. She now reports for CBS4 News at 10 and is always open to story ideas. Connect with her on Facebook or Twitter @KellyCBS4.

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