It was my somber and sincere duty to attend the funeral of State Trooper Brooke Jones-Story on Wednesday, April 3.
The life of Trooper Jones-Story was celebrated by her family, friends, and brothers and sisters in blue as we all laid her to rest far too early in her life. Trooper Jones-Story loved her family and her high school and college volleyball teams; she always had a passion for service and committed herself to becoming a trooper; when she was not working, she could be found working with rescue animals on her farm, cheering for the Cubs, working out with her CrossFit family, and watching Disney movies.
We all know that the life of this exemplary State Trooper was cut short when she was struck and fatally wounded when a tractor trailer struck her squad car and the semi she was inspecting. She was killed in the line of duty on March 28, 2019.
The hearts of Illinoisans sunk further when a few days later, Trooper Gerald Ellis was killed in the line of duty by an impaired motorist in the Northeast side of the state. Jones-Story was the second line of duty death among the State Troopers this year, while Ellis became the third less than a week later.
There have been 15 State Police vehicles hit by distracted or impaired motorists since January 1, 2019. It has to stop. As we send prayers to their families, we can only appropriately honor the memory of our fallen officers by changing our behavior- every day, every time. No activity on our phones nor any delay is worth jeopardizing a human life- especially those of our first responders. We all need to take ownership of this issue, adjust our behaviors and speak up when we see other drivers not putting safety first.
Further, I believe we should change our laws to protect first responders in the same way we protect workers on our roadways. Enhanced penalties are seldom popular in Springfield. In fact, the House Judiciary-Criminal Law Chair had a hold on ALL penalty enhancements for any crimes for several years. However, we must figure out ways to change behaviors to protect first responders on our roadways. To that end, after a number of different legislative proposals, we have thoughtful working groups moving toward having an agreed bill to address penalties and awareness of Scott’s Law by the end of Spring Session.
Scott’s Law requires drivers to stay at least one full lane apart from stopped emergency vehicles as well as reduce their speed when approaching a stopped emergency vehicle. Common sense should tell us this is good practice with any vehicle stopped on a roadside shoulder. Further, practicing safer driving habits- including reduced speeds and eliminating all distractions while driving- are worthy reminders in our modern era.
Another worthy reminder of a hero passed before her time, is a proposal that Senator Stewart and I are both working on to name US Route 20 Westbound, just west on Illinois Route 75 in Stephenson County, as the “Trooper Brooke Jones-Story Memorial Highway”. I am Chief Sponsor of House Joint Resolution 58 to accomplish this designation, while Senator Stewart is concurrently sponsoring Senate Joint Resolution 38 with the same goal.
This designation will also serve as a reminder to motorists of what happens when we don’t show respect to our fellow motorists. A life cut short. A life that could have saved additional lives. Behind the badge, she was a daughter, a sister, a wife, a stepmother, and a grandmother. May her memory remind us to strive to be the best we can be and to get where we need to go safely. God Bless Trooper Jones-Story’s family and friends and may she rest in peace.