Illinois State trooper killed in crash on I-294

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An Illinois State trooper is dead after a crash with a semi-truck.

The trooper has been identified as 28-year-old James Sauter.


Sauter, a licensed pilot, had been a trooper since 2008 and had just completed a temporary assignment in the state police air operations.

He was recently assigned to District 15, which covers the tollways. He is survived by his wife, Elizabeth, and his parents.

Authorities say he was killed when a semi-truck hit his cruiser. Sauter was stopped on the shoulder of southbound Interstate 294 when the semi struck him from behind, Illinois State Police Director Hiram Grau said.

It was not clear whether Sauter’s emergency lights were on or why he was stopped. The southbound lanes were closed after the crash for several hours. Witnesses say that at one point the semi-truck was on fire.

“Our accident reconstruction team is working,” Grau said. “It was a pretty horrific accident. We don’t have all the details yet.”

The driver of the semi, a United Van Lines truck, was being questioned by police. He may have suffered a burned hand, Grau said, adding that the results of blood tests were not available yet.

According to the Chicago Tribune, Sauter is the second Illinois state trooper killed in the last five months. Trooper Kyle Deatherage, 32, was struck and killed by a semi during a traffic stop the end of November along northbound Interstate 55

near Litchfield.

“Unfortunately, this is the second line of duty death within the last five months for the Illinois state police,” Grau said. “Trooper Sauter represented everything good about this department.”

Governor Pat Quinn released the following statement regarding the crash last night that claimed James Sauter’s life.

“Today the entire state of Illinois mourns the loss of Trooper James Sauter, who worked tirelessly to protect the people of our state. Illinois is a safer and better place thanks to his bravery and commitment to public safety.

“Trooper Sauter’s untimely passing is a tragic reminder of the dangers our sworn officers face every day in the line of duty.

“I send my condolences to the family and friends of Trooper James Sauter. They are in our thoughts and prayers during these most difficult of times.”

The Illinois Tollway also released a statement about Sauter:

“On behalf of the Tollway board and entire Illinois Tollway, we are saddened by the tragic loss of Illinois State Police District 15 Trooper James Sauter. District 15 and its troopers are assigned to serve and protect our 286-mile system of

tollways, and we consider them to be part of our Illinois Tollway family. We extend our sympathy to Trooper Sauter’s family and the Illinois State Police after this horrible accident.”

This afternoon, The Hundred Club will make a check presentation to the widow of State Trooper James Sauter at their home.

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  • Steve Crowell

    Trooper Sauter joins Trooper Ambrose, Trooper Agner, Trooper
    Le, and numerous other Officers and Troopers who were rear-ended, while the fuel tank gets
    compromised, and fire ensued, none of these officers got out in time. I am
    convinced these are preventable deaths. Most (by my estimate 75%) remain
    conscious and get out or get dragged out of the car – unconscious. Trooper
    Engelhardt, Officer Schechterle, Trooper Russell etc…
    Some (25% by my estimate) do not maintain consciousness and
    remain in the car as it becomes engulfed in flames and perish. I strongly
    suspect that the "cage" or partition is the reason. It is extremely
    rigid and positioned directly behind the operators' head. When the collision
    occurs the partition slams the back of the head – of any front seat occupant
    rendering them unconscious. What other reason would anybody remain in a burning
    It is unforgivable that those government agency officials
    who have been in a position to correct this problem have swept it under the rug
    for 40+ years.
    None of the partitions in use, comply with minimum federal
    motor vehicle safety standards, nor are any certified to comply, as required by
    federal law.
    Sadly, I am afraid part of the reason is that some wayward
    LEO's have used the partition to deliberately injure prisoners by slamming on
    the brakes to thrust the prisoner , face first, into the steel grid of the
    partition. This is a practice called "waffling" or "noodling" the prisoner. Some call
    it "going to Hollywood" or the "screen test". Some officers
    even boast about it, like Tim Ray of Monee, Illinois. It is a cowardly, vicious
    felony, easily characterized as institutionalized, nationwide, sanctioned
    police brutality.
    see my blog at for USDOT
    letters of warning.
    I admire and respect the good work that is done by most
    honorable officers.
    I drive a cab and I am 5-10 times more likely to be murdered
    'on the job' than police officers. So don't tell ME about risk. Partitions in
    cabs exacerbate our murder rates by protecting gun wielding assailants from any
    of the drivers' possible efforts to defend himself. With a partition, we are
    shot like a fish in a barrel. Partitions in cabs… are todays' Maginot Line.

  • Guest

    The truck driver should be charged with wreckless homicide, there is no logical reason at all for him to be on the left shoulder whatsoever!

    • Bob

      I agree with you. Numerous calls to the Illinois Stae Police went unanswered when I brought up the fact that truckers are using all the lanes on the tollway. They kinda blew me off. I then and now blame them as well for not enforcing the lane restrictions as noted on the tollway sign. NO TRUCKS 2LEFT LANES.

      • DJS

        The Illinois State Police are at their lowest manpower levels in decades. Back in the 80's they were at or near full strength. Back then, trucks were cited all the time for lane usage violations, speeding, following too closely, as well as Motor Carrier Safety regulations. Nowadays they are much more reactive than proactive because they don't have an adequate number of troopers on patrol to keep up with calls for service. The ISP has adopted a "do more with less" formula in order to deal with the lack of manpower. Unfortunately, that doesn't work in police work. Governor Quinn and his cohorts constantly cut public safety funding so they can spend on pork projects or use taxpayer money to fund illegals or more freebies to the Democratic voting base. It's a shame that priorities are so messed up these days and we lack real leadership. RIP Trooper.