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Austin, Travis, Rep. of Tex.
March 05
Born in the oil and gas deposit-rich region of North Texas, on the fraying edge of the Permian Basin, my mother was a special ed teacher, my father, a “pumper,” a far more glamorous job among the petroletariat than the name would indicate. I managed to escape the small town that spawned me promptly after High School graduation, a modicum of sanity still intact to ride shotgun with my generous portions of anger and resentment. Some five years later, I copped a BS degree from the University of Texas at Austin. Said institution and I gladly parted ways. In the intervening 20-plus years, though my only ambition has been to have ambition, I have miraculously coughed-up a boatload of freelance articles, a couple of books of dubious merit, and a metric ton of songs of occasionally inspired quality, not to mention a paralegal certificate, 11 years of experience as a legal underling, and tens of thousands of bicycle commuter miles.


Editor’s Pick
JULY 14, 2009 2:37AM

How Did that Nice Kid I Remember Become a Cop Killer?

Rate: 14 Flag
Stephen York

I remember him vaguely. That's how I remember most of high school- vaguely, be it the  chemicals or  the desire to forget the whole  debacle. I think he played some sports, and, maybe, just maybe, he was in the band. Did he play trumpet? I was in the band. Trombone. Still, I'm not sure. Football? Basketball? I'm not sure. Is there a yearbook around from the early 80's? I would have thrown them away if my mom weren't such an archivist, a born librarian and card-cataloger. Of course they are boxed away in the ether somewhere. I think he was in a couple of my classes. A year behind me. Maybe two. I remember one thing for sure: He had a big smile. It  was huge, one  of those ear to ear grins. It seemed to pop up at the slightest prompting. He was friendly. That  was for sure. He seemed like one of those "go along, get along types." He wouldn't hurt a fly, honest. Sweet as candy. Sweet as pie. All the shy, younger girls must've had crushes on him.

He  had a sister. She was  a cheerleader. One who wasn't an irascible snob. She wasn't insanely pretty. Good looking, sure, but not drop dead gorgeous. She was the  earnest type. Do-gooder. She genuinely liked people. Despite her high social standing, everyone from the  lunch room loner to acne geek club to the football gods were her dearest friends.  Winona Ryder in Heathers. She was an assiduous student counsel officer, the fund drive maven type. She could shake you down for your lunch money to give to the local orphans without the slightest word. You could see  it in her eyes. "You know you want to help them." If she'd been born to a richer family, she'd probably be President by now, or Secretary of State.

It was a small town. Still is. Less than 4,000 bored souls. Everyone knew each other. You'd see their whole family from time to time, out and  about. The Yorks. They were good people. They were working class people, but they were there for their kids. Their kids were gonna have better lives than their parents. The parents were gonna see to that. They didn't miss parent-teacher meetings or any events where their kids were participants. They were likable. They were upstanding Americans. They were your typical family in the typical small town of Bridgeport, Texas.

On  July 13, 2009, I sat reading the Wise County Messenger in my 80-year-old mother's home in beautiful Bridgeport, Texas. I'd been doing some work around the garage that  morning. It was now afternoon, and 108 degrees outside. Lo and behold. There were those eyes looking up from the front page. They looked just the same. Just like his sister's. The mouth wanted to pop that big smile, but  for some reason, the circumstances  wouldn't  allow it.

The story with the picture explained the smile's suppression:

Stephen York. Indicted on June 30. Murder of  Police Officer Randy White of Bridgeport Police Department on April 2, 2009. Bail set at $1,000,000. York had fled cops who tried to pull  him over. He wrecked that car, then stole another that was idling in the drive while the owner ran in to get something she'd forgotten. Led police on 20 mile chase. Confessed to ramming White's patrol car with intent to kill the officer and himself.

My mom, like everyone else in the town, had  heard the stories and developed theories. Like me, most  people found him a friendly, likable guy in his teens. He'd married young, around age 21. "His father-in-law got him involved in drugs," my mom said.

Seems he'd spent more than 20 years on a long slow downhill slide, heading right for April 2, 2009 and that date with the patrol car and officer White.  There were drug busts galore. Domestic disturbances. In and out of jail. Even the proverbial exploding meth lab trailer in an isolated part of the county.

Funny thing is, I was a shit in High School. I was the guy basically living a non-stop Cheech and Chong movie filmed on the KISS Tour bus.  I was the guy that reeked after lunch of countless substances, and chronically skipped classes to stand in line for concert tickets. If you'd sat me down next to York back in those days and asked the average  passerby to name the future cop killer, it would have been me.

Take away a bit of luck, and a few answered opportunities, and it well could have been.

Turns out, per my mom, York's family still lives in Bridgeport. It must be hell for them right now, just like Officer White's.

If only that smiling kid hadn't made that bad choice or two...

I sure wish he could smile right now. As would a lot of people. A little girl- in the picture, she looks maybe 4- would still have a father to come home to her.

Office White's Wife and Daughter

MORE DETAILS AT Wise County Messenger

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The photographer who took the photo of White's daughter and wife is Joe Duty of the WC Messenger. He'd probably win a Pulitzer if he worked at a bigger paper..
Very true-- a different choice here or there, and the world changes. Or it doesn't, but we do.

Fine post.
this is a powerful read. thanks for sharing a story that probably won't receive much attention outside that town (probably a good thing). i feel for that family having to withstand all that scrutiny and horror.
I really like the style and voice of this piece; the short sentences create a rhythm and effective punch. I was with you all the way. Feeling terribly sad for both families here.
Excellent writing. This kind of thing can throw a person for a loop. Hope you are doing ok. I am sorry for the officer's family and feel for them. What happened to the great sister?
Sentence fragments. Perhaps over. Used.