The career of Virginia State Trooper Andrew Fox was short-lived. His end of watch was on October 5, 2012, at age 27, with five years of service. On that fateful night, Fox was wearing a reflective vest and with a lighted baton was directing traffic leaving Kings Dominion Theme Park and the Virginia State Fair.
The cruiser lights were flashing. He had stopped traffic in the left lane and was attempting to stop traffic in the right lane when he was hit by an SUV travelling over the speed limit. The SUV did not immediately stop, and Trooper Fox was dragged down the roadway. The SUV was on top of him. Fox was pronounced dead at a local hospital.
The driver of the vehicle pleaded no contest to reckless driving and received a one-year suspended sentence. Now, the surviving family and fellow officers of Trooper Andrew Fox are trying to make such light penalties for fatally striking a first responder a thing of the past.
A Lifelong Dream Cut Short
Law enforcement officers enter their career field aware of the inherent dangers that can possibly confront them, but they still choose to pursue their passion for public service. Trooper Fox was one such individual.
In his early years growing up, Andrew Fox used to ride his bike with the toy siren, and he played cops with his sister Lauren. He sang the tune “Bad Boys” and often watched the television show, “Cops.”
His father — who he greatly admired — was a police officer. In later years, Fox volunteered as an auxiliary for the Tazewell (Va.) Police Department for three years, and he was also a member of the Draper Volunteer Fire Department.
Fox had considered becoming a rancher and to one day own a beef cattle farm. He even received a B.A. degree from Virginia Tech in Agricultural Science.
According to his sister, Fox always had a strong interest in justice, and he wanted things to be fair.
“He was a peacekeeper all his life,” Lauren said.
Fox decided to become a state trooper, and was excited when he secured a position with Virginia State Police.
“His goal was to help people, not give tickets,” his sister said.
Fox began his career with the Virginia State Police in the Fairfax District office in Springfield, Va. From there, he transferred to Pulaski County. Trooper Fox was a member of the Honor Guard, the tactical team, and he served as a Field Training Officer and an instructor at the Virginia Police Academy with expertise in advanced defensive tactics, radar and LIDAC.
The Family, Moving Forward
The news of Trooper Fox’s death was devastating for his family. According to his sister, he had extensive conversations with his wife about the potentialities of anything happening to him and prepared her for what she would need to do.
There were situations he had been involved in that his family never knew about such as the time he was hit by a truck, thrown up on a windshield and clung to the truck while it travelled a mile down the road before it stopped.
His sister, Lauren, was pregnant when she received the news of his death.
“He was just starting his life. Family was very important to us. He is not here. He was going to be an uncle three months after he died. We are all hurting,” Lauren said.
Lauren described the huge void that now exists in her life and that of her family. “No one can fill it. We want to do everything we possibly can to be cognizant of others on the road,” she stated. Prior to her brother’s death, Lauren knew little about politics but after significant research and enhanced awareness said, “I understand more now.”
She described herself as a “fighter” — with a spirited tenacity to work toward changing the law in Virginia. Her father talked to lawmakers in Virginia about Andrew’s death and fueled discussion to propose legislation that would make reckless driving a felony offense with tougher penalties if an emergency responder is struck and would include a mandatory fine of $2,500.00 to $10,000.00 with the provision that the conviction would be on the record.
“This isn’t going to punish people who had an accident when it is out of your control,” Lauren said.
She engaged a grassroots effort through Facebook, emails and the news media. Moreover, Lauren obtained the support of various professional public safety organizations including the Virginia FOP, the Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police, and The Virginia Sherriff’s Association among others, with the goal of changing the law.
More than 2,000 signatures of support were obtained and legislation was drafted. Lauren and other members of her family testified.
“It is something that has given our family a focus. We were touched by how supportive the senators were,” Lauren said.
The bill did not pass, but it was tabled until the next session because there was no budget amendment to pay for the fiscal impact.
“We’re looking at it as more time. We will not give up. Something good will come out of it,” Lauren said.
Lauren described her brother as honest and kind.
“He was always polite. He spoke directly. He cared about people. He was not in the state police for glory or for the authority to rise above his peers. He was only in it to help other people. He would have done anything for anyone who needed his help. He lived every single day to the fullest. He was a great man,” she said.
If the proposed legislation passes the political process and becomes law, the positive changes it would effect would continue Trooper Fox’s legacy in which his greatest desire was to help people. “Andrew’s Law” has the potential to be a model of justice at its best.