EAST PEORIA — Hours before a Freeport man was struck and killed by an Illinois State Police squad car, he allegedly stole a pickup truck from a house in Lowpoint.
And that appears to be sometime shortly after his mother's car was found crashed against a guardrail on the outskirts of Lowpoint.
Woodford County Sherriff's Chief Deputy Dennis Tipsword said a call came in to the Sheriff's Office about 6:20 a.m. Saturday from a person who said his pickup truck had been stolen. That truck was later recovered near where Jarett J. Simons, 44, was killed while walking on Illinois Route 116 near Centennial Drive about 4:20 a.m.
Hours after the crash, the Illinois State Police's preliminary investigation indicates the trooper was driving in the left lane of Route 116, which also is known as North Main Street in East Peoria, when he struck Simons, who was walking in the middle of the highway, which isn't illuminated at that point. The trooper, whose name hasn't been released, did not have time to react before striking Simons, the state police have said. The trooper, who apparently wasn't hurt, was taken to a local hospital to be examined.
Tipsword said Simons allegedly crashed a vehicle owned by his mother shortly after midnight on Illinois Route 89, a half mile north of the village. At some point, it appears, he had walked into town and allegedly took the pickup, which was found near where he was struck by the squad car, Tipsword said.
Trooper Ross Green, a spokesman for Illinois State Police District 8, which covers the Peoria area, couldn't confirm who was driving the pickup truck. He did say the investigation was ongoing and that state police officials were trying to lift fingerprints from the vehicle, which was found off the road in a ditch in the vicinity of where the accident with the state trooper occurred. Green also declined to give the name of the trooper but did say he hadn't heard anything that would indicate the trooper had done anything wrong. He said it appeared the trooper, whom he described as someone with experience, had come on duty shortly before the accident.
Simons' brother told The Journal-Standard of Freeport that his brother was a carpenter who worked wherever he could find work. It wasn't clear why Jarett Simons was in Woodford County last weekend.
Funeral arrangements are pending.
According to Tazewell County Circuit Court records, it appears Simons was living in Tazewell County in 2014 when he was cited for several traffic tickets and also for misdemeanor battery. In those cases, he listed addresses in Morton and East Peoria as well as Freeport.
Andy Kravetz is the Journal Star public safety reporter. He can be reached at 686-3283 and firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @andykravetz.