Honoring Trooper Brooke Jones-Story
March 28, 2019 - we once again sat in the disbelief of the news of losing another one of our own. It had only been three weeks since the devastating loss of Deputy Jacob Keltner here in the city of Rockford, Illinois, not even time to wrap our minds around the last before yet another. Trooper Brooke Jones-Story, Illinois State Police District 16. A completely avoidable loss had Scott's Law been followed. It left all of us wondering: How do we cope with yet another fallen hero when we haven't come out of the shock of the last?
One thing that saddens me in writing this blog entry, and the last, is I feel I cannot pay tribute to these heroes, to these people, as it is due. I did not know their names before they were lost. I did not know who they were. And that is not to say it is by fault, rather our paths just never crossed until these instances - these moments that can never and should never serve to be more than a small piece of how they are remembered. But moments that, for those of us left behind, became the dividing line of life before and life after. They were all so much more than their uniforms and badges. How incredible that only a handful of people on this earth are lucky enough to have known who they each were - to know them in their other titles outside of "officer" or "deputy" or "trooper". To know them outside the badge. Brooke was a wife, a daughter, a sister, and so many more important titles...her life encompassed so much more than most of us were able to get to know. I am thankful to have learned more about her life, and only hope others have paid attention in order to know more about who she was, too.
By 3/28/19, Illinois State Police had already seen a record number of instances where squad vehicles had been hit in violations of Scott's Law in 2019. On January 12, 2019 Trooper Christopher Lambert was killed in a Scott's Law violation. After the loss of Trooper Jones-Story, ISP and other agencies around the state and country stepped up their actions for violations of Scott's Law. By the end of June 2019, over 5,000 citations had been issued by ISP, compared with just over 500 during the same time one year prior.
Just two days after losing Trooper Jones-Story, Illinois State Police Trooper Gerald Ellis was killed in a wrong-way crash. March 2019 was emotionally draining for law enforcement and law enforcement families. In my own emotional response and processing, I reached out to our department -Rockford Police Department- and asked simply, "What can we do? This is out of control. It isn't OK. What can [BLUE 815] do to help?" The response I got was to start raising awareness of Scott's Law. We were invited to set up a table during Police Week in May of 2019 to do exactly that. And so we did.
We (BLUE 815) also started a local fundraiser in which numerous businesses, blue families, and citizens of Winnebago County donated funds, gift cards, and other various items allowing us to make "Blessing Bags" for the troopers of Illinois State Police District 16 headquarters, and a care basket we were able to give directly to Robert Story, Brooke's husband, and retired ISP Master Sergeant.
To get our table ready for police week, I reached out to the state to get approval to print and use resources found online to raise awareness of Scott's Law. I also reached out to ISP District 16. Both were more than willing to provide us with pamphlets and approval to use any and all photos and downloadable resources if it was in any way related to raising awareness. Their almost instant responses to our requests was another testimony to how serious this issue was in our state. During Police Week, we were able to connect and speak with a number of people who came to our table and expressed condolences, asked questions, took pamphlets and stickers, and, we hope, walked away with the idea that they would talk to more people about Scott's Law and the consequences that follow with people not following this mandate.
In June 2019, the Old Settler's Day festival in Rockton, IL set up an event for both Brooke's and our family, to honor Brooke and Jaimie during the song "The One's That Didn't Make It Back Home" at the Justin Moore concert. For Jaimie's family and friends, this was meaningful because Justin Moore was one of his favorite country artists, and because that song hit us all very hard the first time we heard it. We were all living that song, and still are.
This event would be the first time our families would meet. Meeting the family of another fallen officer is pretty emotional, as there are very few, and yet far too many, people who understand this kind of grief. Prior to meeting Brooke's family, I knew this event would be significantly difficult for all of us, but they were fresh in their shock and grief having only lost Brooke a couple of months before. We were a year and a half into ours, and had already done the biggest ceremonies at the state and national levels, and been through so many events locally that come with losing your officer; this was one of their first, and it is so difficult to know that exact feeling - when you can empathize - not just sympathize - because you walked that part of the path not long ago. Not long after meeting, we were surprised to find out that two wooden blue line flags had been made and donated to our families that Justin Moore would be signing for us as we were going to go backstage to meet him - he had heard their stories, their names. For that, we were so thankful.
Trooper Jones-Story was honored during the Jaimie Cox Foundation's 5K in October 2019. It was another event we could all participate in to remember our officers, and one both Brooke and Jaimie would have likely done themselves as they were both quite athletic.
I am so sorry that I did not get to know the incredible person Brooke was, and will always find it bittersweet getting to know families like hers because of the ways our paths and lives end up crossing. I am thankful that our families continue to support each other and participate in events together.
This summer, Robert Story will participate in the IL C.O.P.S. Cycle Across Illinois in honor of his wife. To honor Brooke this weekend, and to help lift up her family as they continue to honor her, please consider making a donation to Robert's fundraiser for this event by clicking here.
Rest Easy, Wonder Woman. You will never be forgotten.
Trooper Brooke Jones Story
Illinois State Police
End of Watch: 03.28.2019
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Thanks for being here, for reading, and for remembering with me.
-Andrea Cox, BLUE 815 Chair
"We just go on living and go on missing the ones, the ones that didn't make it back home."
- Justin Moore -