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KDOT met with resistance after recommending fallen deputy’s memorial be removed

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JOHNSON COUNTY, Kan. -- Hours after word spread Deputy Brandon Collins was killed, a former coworker and his wife got to work. They created a memorial honoring Collins along 69-Highway.

Now, organizers told FOX 4 they are fighting to keep it standing after the Kansas Department of Transportation said it has to go. The organization said drivers stopping to take photos are causing a potential safety hazard.

KDOT made their recommendation less than a week after Deputy Collins was killed. Agencies all over Johnson County are emotional to hear the only memorial they have to remember him might be taken down.

For drivers passing by, they see a name, a number, and a date. For many people who knew the man behind the badge number, the memorial is all they have left.

“We heard from countless deputies that said, 'this is the only thing, this is exactly what we needed, this is the only thing that's gotten us through the last 5 days.'”

Deputy Collins’ former coworker Scott Atwell and his wife Teri created the memorial just hours after Collins was killed. They wanted deputies, friends, and family to have a place to grieve.

“Now to hear that it might have to go, it's like opening that wound up all over again,” Atwell said.

They recently got word the Kansas Department of Transportation is demanding the memorial be taken down.

KDOT told FOX 4 it has become a safety hazard. Officials say drivers have been stopping to look at it, some taking pictures as they pass.

The Atwells were devastated by the news but they weren’t the only ones. Agencies all over Johnson County have been calling them almost non-stop.

“They're very upset, which is why we've been fielding phone calls and text messages and Facebook messages. We just told them we're working on it.”

The Atwells are hoping for a miracle and a change of heart. They say for many, losing this memorial is like losing Deputy Collins twice.

“I thought it would be there forever.”

A petition is now circulating online to keep the memorial from being removed.

The Johnson County Sheriff's Office tweeted out on Sunday that the memorial would not be removed Monday.

KDOT held a meeting Monday with the Johnson County Sheriff's Office to discuss safety concerns over the current memorial, as well as ideas for a more permanent memorial for Deputy Collins.

Kimberly Qualls with KDOT said the department is reportedly looking into two different sign programs related to impaired driving or naming a highway in his honor. Those plans would have to be approved by legislature.

For now, the roadside memorial where stay where it is.

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