State trooper's widow urges motorists to pay attention
Elizabeth Kelly knew that her late husband's job as a state trooper was dangerous.
But when she pictured her husband -- Trooper James Sauter -- getting hurt or killed, she says she always thought that it would be because he was shot.
Sauter died on March 28, 2013, when a semitrailer truck hit his squad car on the Tri-State Tollway near Northbrook. The driver of the truck had fallen asleep and struck Sauter's car from behind after crossing four lanes of traffic.
On Saturday, Kelly urged motorists to pay attention to the road.
"Every time you get behind the wheel of a car, you are in control of a potentially lethal weapon," Kelly said. "We need to eliminate the distractions, fix the poor choices and make sure that everyone makes it home to their families."
The Vernon Hills woman's comments came at the start of a "hero workout" fundraiser at CrossFit UXO in Gurnee that raised money for the families of three state troopers who were killed this year.
Saturday's event was held two days after state lawmakers approved a measure to increase penalties for drivers who don't slow or change lanes to avoid vehicles on the side of the road, known as the "Move Over" law or "Scott's Law." Gov. J.B. Pritzker has said he looks forward to signing the legislation.
Kelly addressed the crowd flanked by photographs of Sauter and Illinois State Police troopers Christopher Lambert of Highland Park, Brooke Jones-Story of rural Stockton and Gerald "Jerry" Ellis of Antioch.
Lambert was off-duty in January when he was killed while responding to a crash involving several vehicles on the Tri-State Tollway. Jones-Story was struck by a semitrailer truck in March while she was inspecting another truck near Freeport. And Ellis was killed in March when his squad car was struck by a wrong-way driver on I-94.
"The four troopers you see in these white frames here all gave their lives doing something that they loved -- keeping us safe," Kelly said. "James, Chris, Jerry and Brooke were all taken from us too soon. And all of them died because another individual was being careless or reckless while driving a vehicle. All four of these crashes were preventable."
The organizers of Saturday's event said they wanted to do something to help the families of the three fallen troopers.
Josh Amann, a Waukegan police detective who also is a co-owner of CrossFit UXO, said he was hoping the event raises at least $6,000. He also wants to raise awareness about Scott's Law.
"We just want people to pay attention," Amann said. "It's a simple thing. When you're driving and you see emergency personnel on the side of the road, just pay attention to what you're doing and move over."
One of the speakers on Saturday was Lucy Kuelper, the 12-year-old daughter of a state trooper who created the "Move Over Project" to spread the word about Scott's Law on social media.