Arlington officer killed in wreck was decorated police veteran

ARLINGTON -- A highly decorated seven-year veteran of the Arlington Police Department died early Wednesday in a fiery wreck involving his patrol motorcycle and a school bus.

Officer Craig Gordon Story, 34, was pronounced dead at the scene of the wreck. It was reported shortly after 7 a.m. near the intersection of South Cooper Street and West Inwood Drive, police officials said.

Police said Story was pursuing a speeding vehicle northbound on Cooper with his lights on and siren blaring. A school bus headed southbound on Cooper Street turned left at Lynda Lane in front of Story and the officer and school bus collided, police said in a statement Wednesday afternoon.

Officials for Arlington schools said that neither the bus driver nor his nine passengers, ages 6-13, were hurt.

Investigators have not determined if there is any fault for the wreck, police spokeswoman Tiara Ellis Richard said in the statement.

Story was married with a 2-year-old son, Chief Theron Bowman said during a news conference at police headquarters, as the U.S. flag flew at half staff. The fallen officer was a native of Wichita Falls.

"It's very painful to lose one of our own," Bowman said. "This is a very difficult time for our department and most police departments in the state and in the country."

The chief said Story "absolutely adored his wife, Danielle, and he was crazy about his 2-year-old son, John."

"He referred to his son as one of the most handsome boys born on earth," Bowman said.

Story graduated in 2001 from Midwestern State University at Wichita Falls with a bachelor's degree in criminal justice, according to the Arlington Police Department.

He joined the department's 24th Academy Class in May 2002 and worked patrol in the north and east districts, the department said. He was nominated for East Officer of the Year in 2005.

Story also received 19 commendations and was a member of the department's tactical unit. He joined the traffic unit last year, according to the department.

Cooper Street was closed at Inwood as police investigated the wreck, but Richard reported at 2:19 p.m. that it had been reopened.

Witnesses said they saw the motorcycle burning right after the wreck, and Richard said Story was ejected from the motorcycle, which burst into flames.

Mark Smith said he was driving on Cooper Street, taking his daughter to Arlington High School, when he saw Story moving into the intersection with lights flashing.

Smith said the officer activated his siren, and he gave him the right of way.

After the officer rode by, Smith turned onto Inwood. But then Smith heard a crash, so he turned into the parking lot of a business and got out to help.

Smith said the motorcycle was burning as he and another man pulled the officer from the wreckage.

"We took off our jackets and tried to put out the flames on him," Smith said. "I'm still shook up about it."

Another man also reported seeing flames.

Fabian Monroy said he was unlocking the door of the nearby Goo-Goo car wash, when he heard a screech and a boom.

He looked just north of the intersection and then he heard what sounded like an explosion.

"Everyone was slamming on the brakes and I saw the flames shooting high," he said.

Monroy said he believed the motorcycle had caught fire.

"Those flames were pretty intense from the gas tank," Monroy said. "That tank blew."

Monroy moved closer to the accident and saw the officer on the sidewalk, about 15 feet from the wreckage.

"People were already there, but from the way it looked, there was nothing anyone could do," he said.

The wreck was heard by Rose Moreno, who lives on Inwood Drive, a few houses east of the intersection with Cooper Street.

"It was about 7:15," she said. "I just heard, like, a car horn twice, and all of a sudden it got stuck. And then, within two or three minutes, I heard a lot of sirens."

Moreno did not see the wreck happen, but she noted that people frequently drive too fast on Inwood and some of them try to run the light at Cooper.

"There's accidents out here all the time," she said.

Students were taken to Arlington High School, where they were being interviewed by accident investigators, said Amy Casas, schools spokeswoman.

Grief counselors were sent to the high school in case students needed them, Casas said.

The students attended Crow Ditto and Dunn elementary schools and Bailey and Young junior high schools, Casas said.

Lynn Darst, lead counselor at Arlington High School, said she went with another counselor to the scene of the wreck to bring the students from the bus to the high school.

Counselors from the students' home campuses were also summoned to the high school to meet with the students. They focused on trying to make the children feel safe and warm, and to let them express their feelings, Darst said.

"On top of the horror of it happening, they also had to deal with the fear," Darst said. "Some of them thought their bus was on fire."

Flames, however, did not consume the bus. The school bus and wreckage of the motorcycle were visible on Cooper Street north of the intersection, but that area was sealed off from the media.

All of the children's parents picked them up from the school by about 9:30 a.m.

Darst said counselors will be following up with the children. She also planned to meet with Arlington High School students who saw the wreck on the way to school.

Bus driver Milagros Valerio, 54, was hired last April, according to a statement from the Arlington Independent School District.

His AISD employment record has no reprimands or commendations, and he previously lived in Florida where he was self-employed, according to the statement.

Valerio was taken to police headquarters to talk to police, but he was not under arrest, Casas said.

AISD Superintendent Jerry McCullough said the school district staff was "cooperating fully" with the police investigation.

“This morning’s accident is a terrible tragedy," McCullough said. "We are keeping the Story family and the APD family in our thoughts and prayers during this difficult time."

Numerous officers came to the scene Wednesday morning, and more than a dozen patrol cars were parked nearby.

"Obviously, officers are all talking to one another, rallying around each other and trying to be as supportive as possible," Richard said.

A memorial fund for Story's family has been set up at the Arlington Credit Union, Richard said.

She added that donations can also be made to the APA Benevolent Fund, c/o Arlington Police Association at PO Box 27 Arlington, TX 76004.

Story is the seventh Arlington officer to die in the line of duty, according to the Arlington police Web site. The list includes Cpl. Joseph Cushman, who was killed in a training accident on June 7, 2001.

In 1994, rookie officer Craig Hanking was killed very near the scene of Wednesday's crash. His patrol car slammed into the side of a U.S. Postal Service tractor-trailer rig at South Cooper and Park Row as he responded to a reported burglary.

This was the third traffic fatality in Arlington this year. In 2009, the city recorded 31 traffic fatalities.