(NEWS3) — Monday, March 30, marks a year since ISP Trooper Gerald “Jerry” Ellis was killed in the line of duty.
Ellis, 36, of Colchester, was an 11-year veteran of the Illinois State Police with District 15 in Downers Grove.
Early in the morning on March 30, 2019, Ellis was heading home when he made a split-second decision to hit a drunk driver that was driving the wrong way on I-94 in Lake County. The brave and self-less move by Ellis stopped the drunk driver from hitting another vehicle that reportedly had a family inside. Ellis struck the vehicle head-on and later died from his injuries.
According to Illinois State Police, 2019 was the deadliest year for Illinois State Troopers killed in the line of duty. Trooper Ellis was the third trooper killed by a driver breaking the law. Three of the four ISP fatalities were a result of car crashes. The other was a shooting incident.
Jerry’s father, Terry and his brother, Keith Ellis, sat down with NEWS3’s Devin Brooks in November for an exclusive interview to remember Jerry and talk about the struggles they face and how they hope the loss of their loved one serves as a reminder to drive responsibly.
“I don’t wish any parent to have to go through this,” Terry said. “It’s the hardest thing in the world for the rest of your life. When you see red lights and yellow lights, you need to slow down so those people can go home that night too.”
“He was a kind soul,” Keith said. “He would do anything to help someone out. My brother was a very patriotic man. He always had a love for supporting his country.”
Last September, the local community and ISP District 14 honored Trooper Ellis with a park dedicated in his name in Colchester. The community raised nearly $6,000 to contribute to the memorial park. In October, state officials and fellow ISP Troopers also paid tribute to Ellis by naming a stretch of I-94 where the crash happened, the Trooper Gerald W. Ellis Memorial Highway.
The U.S. Army veteran left behind a wife and two daughters.
Police said the 44-year-old driver, who was driving the wrong way on I-94, also died in the crash with a blood alcohol level of .169, more than twice the legal limit. Police said that man had no insurance or valid driver’s license since 1996 and had prior DUIs.