Illinois State Police Trooper Brian McMillen was not the first police officer to be killed because someone allegedly drove drunk after leaving the rural Illiopolis tavern now known as JD’s Lounge.

Illinois State Police Trooper Brian McMillen was not the first police officer to be killed because someone allegedly drove drunk after leaving the rural Illiopolis tavern now known as JD’s Lounge.


 


Robin Vogel, a Decatur police officer who had lived in Springfield, died 2 1/2 days after a crash that occurred about 4 a.m. Oct. 1, 2005. She was on patrol in her squad car when it was struck by a vehicle driven by C. Joshua Meixner, 24, of Cerro Gordo.


 


Meixner, who failed to stop for a red light, was killed instantly. His blood-alcohol concentration at the time of the crash was .205, 2 1/2 times the legal limit.


The last place he’d been drinking before driving a friend home? The Illiopolis bar then called Jukebox Junction.


 


“Looking at it now, two years after the fact, that this is the same bar … it’s tragic for both families and both departments,” said deputy Decatur police chief Edward Smith, who was among those who investigated the Vogel crash.


 


According to the Officer Down organization, McMillen and Vogel are two of only three police officers who have been killed while on duty in central Illinois in the past 10 years. The third officer also was killed by a drunken driver, but that accident took place in Calhoun County.


 


According to a Macon County coroner’s inquest in November 2005, Meixner left his job in Decatur about 9:40 p.m. Sept. 30 and drove to Cerro Gordo, stopping first at a homecoming football game. From there, he went to an American Legion club, where he drank a rum and Coke before driving a friend to Lovington. He then went to a bar in Maroa to meet another friend for drinks about midnight.


 


The two proceeded to Jukebox Junction, according to a state police report that Smith reviewed Tuesday morning. There, they continued drinking until 3 a.m.


 


Meixner drove his friend to Maroa. The friend urged Meixner to spend the night, but he refused. On his way back home, his car collided with Vogel’s squad car.


 


The 37-year-old Vogel, who was survived by a 15-year-old son, had lived in Springfield for years, working as a police dispatcher for five years before joining the Decatur department in 1999. She was married to a Springfield police officer until shortly before her death.


 


Brian Schackmann, Sangamon County’s liquor inspector, said Tuesday he was unaware in July 2006 of the business’s connection to the previous fatality when he recommended that the bar’s license be passed on to a new owner.


 


And Dwayne Gab, the assistant state’s attorney who oversees county board issues, said he had become aware of the previous deadly crash only within the past week, when working with state police to investigate JD’s.


 


He said the Vogel accident probably was overlooked because it was investigated by authorities outside Sangamon County. Investigators also might have believed there wasn’t a significant relationship between Jukebox Junction and the Vogel accident, Gab said.


 


McMillen, 24, was en route to JD’s Lounge early Oct. 28 to help with a disturbance at the bar, whose license allowed liquor sales until 3 a.m.  The Pana native had his lights and sirens going when a driver who had left the bar, Justin L. Taylor, 22, of Decatur, veered onto McMillen’s side of the road. Taylor’s car hit McMillen’s squad car in the front right side.


 


McMillen’s police car was knocked sideways into the wrong lane, where it was hit on the driver’s side by a car driven by Shai-Tan L. Cook, 26, also of Decatur.


 


Taylor has been charged with aggravated drunken driving, reckless homicide and failure to yield to an emergency vehicle.  He remains in the Sangamon County Jail on $1 million bond. Cook, who was charged Tuesday with driving under the influence, has been returned to the Logan Correctional Center in Lincoln for a parole violation.


 


Smith said Decatur’s third-shift officers regularly have had to deal with Decatur residents returning to town from JD’s.


 


“We have, in the past, had issues with people coming back into town and the parking lots on the west end and dealing with the issues that stem from that,” Smith said.


 


JD’s patrons sometimes would continue partying in parking lots in Decatur, he said. Police would break up the impromptu parties, but as one parking lot would clear, another would fill up.


 


“We’d spend an hour to an hour and a half clearing this large group of people from parking lots,” he said.


 


The department also concentrates some of its DUI enforcement patrols in areas traveled by people coming back to Decatur on Interstate 72 from Illiopolis, he said.


 


Sarah Antonacci can be reached at (217) 788-1529 or sarah.antonacci@sj-r.com.