Grand Prairie

Driver Pleads Guilty in Chase That Killed Grand Prairie Police Officer

Grand Prairie Police Officer Brandon Tsai died in November 2022 while pursuing a driver with a fake paper tag

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The driver involved in a police chase and crash that killed Grand Prairie Police Officer Brandon Tsai in November 2022 has pleaded guilty to two felonies and is headed to prison.

Colbie Hoffman, who reportedly confessed to police after his arrest last fall, pleaded guilty to two felonies Thursday.

On November 14, 2022, Tsai tried pulling Hoffman over for failure to yield but Hoffman refused to stop. It turned into a high-speed chase that only lasted minutes and turned into tragedy when Hoffman made a sudden turn and caused Tsai to crash into a light pole.

Tsai's watch ended that night. Hoffman fled the scene but was arrested days later and admitted to his crimes.

During Thursday's hearing, Grand Prairie Police officers packed the courtroom to hear the sentencing.

"It's tough, we're still hurting. It's very, very difficult," said Chief Daniel Scesney. “I wish I had some words of wisdom that would help here, but I don’t. It’s senseless."

Hoffman admitted to evading arrest and detention causing death and tampering with evidence for destroying the fake paper tags on his vehicle. A judge sentenced him to 12 years on the first charge and 10 years on the second. The sentences are to be served concurrently.

Hoffman waived his right to an appeal since he entered into a plea agreement.

NBC 5 asked Scesney if he thought 12 years was enough.

"There's a reason they don't ask people who are emotionally connected to get involved in sentencing guidelines. So I'm emotionally connected. I'll leave it at that," he answered.

NBC 5 News
Colbie Hoffman, booking photo, Nov. 17, 2022.

Scesney said he struggled to find closure with the sentencing.

"It didn't for me. It just felt very sterile. I don't know what I was expecting but I don't feel any closure," he said.

However, there's more work to be done in memory of Tsai.

Hoffman had been driving with fake paper tags, which made finding him difficult in the days after the crash. Officers canvassing the area located other vehicles with temporary paper tags matching the same number as the tag on the Chevy Malibu Hoffman was driving in the incident. NBC 5 Investigates said law enforcement sources told them the tag on the Malibu was first issued by the Texas DMV in the spring and had since been reproduced hundreds of times.

Grand Prairie Police went through an exhaustive search to find Hoffman's vehicle and arrest him. They poured over thousands of images from license plate cameras and were able to narrow it down to a specific area, which led them Hoffman.

Temporary paper license plates are issued to vehicles during the title and registration process but criminals have found ways to create fake tags. It has turned into a headache for law enforcement, who have a hard time tracing vehicles with fake tags that were involved in crimes.

Following Hoffman's sentencing, Scesney went from the courthouse in Dallas to the capital in Austin to support a bill that would eliminate paper plates altogether, an effort to curtail widespread issues with fraudulent tags. The House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed House Bill 718, authored by Rep. Craig Goldman of Fort Worth, on Tuesday.

Scesney said he planned to speak with lawmakers on Thursday as the bill moves through the Senate.

"We've really been focused on trying to get paper tags outlawed in Texas," he said. "So we're really putting a lot of energy into that. I'm hoping that happens."

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