Mike Cokins still can’t remember what hit him. All he remembers, according to one good friend, is a red blur and then the face of a paramedic.
The 28-year-old Riverside native and rookie Illinois state trooper remains in intensive care at the hospital, but he’s made significant progress in his recovery since being struck by an alleged drunk driver on the Tri-State Tollway on Sept. 6.
“He’s lucky to be alive,” said Cokins’ friend, a fellow state trooper, who was authorized to speak to the media only if his name wasn’t revealed.
Cokins was making a routine traffic stop on the tollway near St. Charles Road about 2:45 p.m. He was walking toward a Jeep Cherokee he’d just pulled over, when a maroon Honda CRV allegedly driven by 59-year-old Mount Prospect resident Leslie Thurow struck him.
According to his friend, the impact threw Cokins over the hood of the Jeep and onto the pavement near the guard rail. Both of his legs were broken. He underwent four surgeries; it will be 3-4 months before he’ll be able to begin putting any weight on his legs, his friend said.
“The time table is unknown for how long he’ll be in intensive care,” said his friend, who was Cokins’ emergency contact and received the notification call in the aftermath. “After that, he’ll go to an in-patient rehab facility.”
Cokins grew up in Riverside on Delaplaine Road in a home across from Big Ball Park and graduated from Riverside-Brookfield High School, where he played football all four years, in 2004.
“I wasn’t surprised he entered law enforcement,” said RBHS Assistant Principal John Passarella, who knew Cokins as a big kid with a gentle approach. “I could always see him doing something to help the good of the community.”
According to Anthony Zeman, a patrolman with the Brookfield Police Department whose younger brother graduated from RBHS with Cokins, “Mike always wanted a career in law enforcement.”
Cokins and Zeman have played on softball teams together for years; that’s also how Cokins met his friend who’s now a sergeant with the Illinois State Police.
“I helped him through the process and we became good friends,” the trooper said.
Cokins entered the Illinois State Police Academy 10 months ago. After six months at the academy, Cokins went through a 14-week field training period where he rode along with a more experienced officer.
He had been on his own for just about a month when he was struck by the car.
“I’m more worried about being hit by a car than getting shot,” said Cokins’ state trooper friend.
The woman who allegedly struck Cokins is being held without bond at Cook County Jail. Her next court date is Sept. 26 at the Maybrook courthouse in the courtroom of Judge Geary Kull.
On Sept. 4, Kull sentenced Thurow to two years’ probation after she pleaded guilty to one count of felony drunken driving. She had been in jail since May 28, the day she was arrested in Brookfield after her maroon Honda plowed into a parked car while she drove in the 3700 block of Park Avenue at 10:40 a.m.
Just two days after being released from jail, Thurow was back behind the wheel of the Honda. Police say that after she hit Cokins, she also sideswiped an SUV carrying a family of seven. The SUV flipped over and the occupants were treated at a hospital. Thurow finally crashed into the center median and spun out.
According to police, Thurow’s blood-alcohol level was more than twice the legal limit.
It was her fourth DUI arrest since 2008 and her third since December 2013. Her first three arrests ended in convictions, and two of them occurred in Brookfield.
Brookfield police arrested Thurow, a Lyons resident at the time, on the morning of Feb. 5, 2008 after being called to a residence in the 8900 block of Burlington Avenue by her ex-boyfriend, who wanted a drunken Thurow removed from the building.
An hour and a half later, Thurow returned to the house. Police again arrived and told her to leave or she would be arrested. An officer arrested her after he saw her get into her car and back out of the driveway over the curb.
In December 2013, Thurow was drunk when the vehicle she was driving ran a red light in Rosemont, broadsiding another vehicle in the process. She was convicted of that DUI in March.
Two months later, on May 28, she was arrested again in Brookfield. She remained jailed until pleading guilty to the felony charge in exchange for probation on Sept. 4.