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Bluefield PD mourns loss of officer and friend

By GREG JORDAN

Bluefield Daily Telegraph

BLUEFIELD, W.Va.  — Local police were mourning Wednesday the loss not only of a fellow officer, but of a friend who had died the previous day while protecting the community.

Bluefield Police Department Cpl. A. L. Crook gets into a cruiser outside of city hall in this file photo taken in 2014. Cook died early Tuesday morning after a crash that begin as the pursuit of a possible DUI suspect.
(Bluefield Daily Telegraph file photo)

Lt. Aaron Crook of the Bluefield Police Department died early Tuesday morning after a crash at the intersection of Princeton Avenue and Lee Street that begin as the pursuit of a possible DUI suspect. Chief Dennis Dillow spoke Wednesday about the tragedy.

“He’s been with the Bluefield Police Department for nine years,” Dillow said, seated at his desk with a black ribbon across his badge; the number 210, Crook’s unit number, was on it. “He was a lieutenant on the 8 p.m. to 8 a.m. shift. He was a detective, he made it to the rank of corporal, he made it to the rank of sergeant, he made it to the rank of lieutenant. He was just recently, earlier this year, promoted to the rank of lieutenant.”

The department lost a member of its extended family Tuesday morning.

“You’ve got to think, when you become a police officer, you’re what I call born into another family. You’re accepted into a family shall I say, it’s like nothing I’ve ever been a part of,” Dillow said. “You can take an officer from the East Coast and an officer from the West Coast, put them together for an hour, and they’re family. And Aaron, and that’s what I’m going to refer to him as because he was not just one of my best supervisors, he was my friend. Aaron was one of the finest not just policemen, but people person, I’ve had the pleasure of coming into contact with during my lifetime. He was a friend. He was, of course, a father, a brother, husband, son, but he was a friend and he was part of our police family.”

To Dillow and the other officers, Crook was more than a coworker.

“He was a personal friend of mine. He wasn’t just somebody that worked for me. We fished together, we spent time together outside of these walls. He cared about what he did. He cared about the city of Bluefield, he cared about the community,” Dillow said.

And when Crook was in command of his shift, his officers knew what he expected, and that was to take care of the Bluefield community, he stated.

“Unfortunately, during the accident he gave his life trying to help another officer, so I think that he not only did his job, but he gave his life trying to do his job and trying to protect this city,” Dillow said. “I don’t know what else I could say about him to do him justice other than he was one of the finer people I have ever met.”

Crook had served his country as a Marine, and his leadership qualities were evident. Dillow recalled when Crook joined the department.

“I didn’t just think that he was going to be a good policeman, I knew he was going to make a great leader,” Dillow recalled. “In life, you need people who are followers, and then there are leaders, and Aaron was a leader. When people spoke, he listened. When he talked to his men, they listened and they were willing to follow him anywhere. So he wasn’t just a member of the department, he was a leader of the department. I don’t say that because he was a lieutenant. I had the privilege to promote him not only to sergeant but to lieutenant. That made me very proud because I knew he would be a prominent leader in this department. Several of the men are great leaders, but Aaron was an exceptional leader, he really was.”

Three other officers who were injured during the incident included K-9 Officer Joseph Danieley, Patrolman Mark Filer and State Police Trooper K.A. Filer, who is Patrolman Filer’s brother, Dillow stated. All three officers were treated after the crash and later released.

“They’re beat up pretty good, but they’re going to recover completely,” Dillow stated. Their emotional needs and those of their fellow officers are being addressed.

“We’ll take steps that they’re okay and give them any help they need. We have policies in place to make sure they’re okay that way,” he said.

“They’re all of my men, and I’ve lost one. That’s more close to heart because I didn’t just lose an employee, I lost a friend. That makes it more personal, it makes it more sensitive, but I have many other men here who lost a friend, too. Any type of grief counseling is open to them all. They’ve lost like I said not just one of their leaders, they lost a friend,” Dillow added.

The Bluefield Police Department does not have an assigned chaplain, but law enforcement agencies in Tazewell County, the West Virginia State Police, and the Mercer County Sheriff’s Department have offered assistance. Dillow has also given Bluefield’s officers the phone number of a local pastor they can call.

Crook is the first Bluefield police officer to die in the line of duty since Oct. 2, 1942, when Patrolman William M. Land was lost to gunfire. Three other Bluefield officers have also died in the line of duty. Patrolman James H. Keister died Jan. 10, 1913 as the result of gunfire. Patrolman James L. Booth died Aug. 11, 1911 in a automotive crash, and Patrolman James J. “Jim” Francisco died June 11, 1907 as the result of gunfire, according to the Officer Down Memorial Page on the internet.

Visitation will be offered Friday from 5 to 8 p.m. at the Brushfork National Guard Armory. Funeral services will begin at 11 a.m. Saturday at the armory. Memorial Funeral Directory, Inc. in Princeton is in charge of arrangements.

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