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