TUPELO – A lot has changed for the Hood family over the past year.
The twins, Stephanie and Stacie, are 21-year-old women and a year closer to college graduation.
Matthew is going through the Mississippi Law Enforcement Training Academy, working toward his dream of following in his dad’s footsteps and being a Mississippi state trooper.
Their mother, Lisa, enjoys every moment of watching her children grow up.
But despite all the good that has happened over the past year for the family, the man who made it all worthwhile lost his life in a tragic accident on Memorial Day weekend last year.
Mississippi Highway Patrolman Master Sgt. Steve Hood, 50, was killed on a Friday afternoon, May 29, during a high-speed chase near Brice’s Crossroads, just miles from his home.
Hood, a 27-year veteran of MHP, was on his way to have dinner with Lisa and the twins when he lost control of his car and flipped several times.
In fact, the last time Lisa Hood saw her husband alive was during that fatal chase.
“We were behind him on our way out to eat that day,” said Lisa. “I saw when he turned around to pursue the vehicle that was speeding, so we just went on to the restaurant and waited on him. He never made it there.”
Lisa said it wasn’t long before Matthew called to tell her that a trooper had been involved in an accident near Brice’s Crossroads.
Matthew, who was working as a jailer at the Lee County Jail, didn’t tell his mother the man in the accident was his dad. He didn’t have to.
“I knew it was Steve when he told me and I knew he was gone,” said Lisa. “He had just passed me near that area so I knew it was him. I didn’t want to know it but I did.”
Hood lost control of his vehicle while chasing a souped-up Trans-Am driven by 25-year-old William Francis. After the accident, Francis was arrested and charged with felony fleeing and eluding a police officer resulting in death.
He is out on $100,000 bond and has an Aug. 23 trial date set in Circuit Court.
Legislation in his honor
Hood’s death has had an impact, not only on his family and fellow troopers, but in the legislative arena as well.
Earlier this year, Gov. Haley Barbour signed the Steve Hood Act, which takes effect in July and bans the use of nitrogen oxide on vehicles and motorcycles traveling on Mississippi roads and highways.
Authorities say the suspect’s car used nitrogen oxide, propelling his vehicle to speeds well over 100 mph during the chase.
“Nitrous oxide is something that increases speed of vehicles,” Rep. Donnie Bell, D-Fulton and vice chairman of the Transportation Committee, told fellow legislators when the bill was being discussed in the House.
“This is like a vehicle on steroids.”
Hood’s memory also lives on in his fellow troopers. Trooper Ray Hall said despite the passage of a full year, the department still feels the void created by Hood’s death.
Although his accident causes troopers to think more cautiously when it comes to high-speed chases, Hall said they still realize their responsibilities.
“We raise our hands and swear to enforce the law and that is not always easy,” said Hall. “The laws are set up to protect people from getting hurt, and even though it didn’t work in Steve’s accident, we will continue to try to do just that. Steve is an inspiration to us all and he will always be missed.”
‘Reality of his job’
Hood, a native of Cleveland, was a graduate of East Union High School and Northeast Mississippi Community College. He joined the Highway Patrol in 1982, working first in the Starkville district before transferring to New Albany.
It was a job that carried rewards as well as dangers, something his family understood.
“Steve always made sure he found everyone in the house before he went to work to say he loved us,” said Lisa, his wife of 26 years. “He was a trooper for 27 years so he knew it was not a guarantee that he’d make it back home every day. That was the reality of his job and he accepted it. But that doesn’t make it any easier for us.”
Stephanie and Stacie have some big days ahead that they will have to go through without the man they loved and admired. Weddings, graduations, and one day bringing grandchildren home are bittersweet thoughts for the girls.
“We’re girls, so we are daddy’s girls, of course,” said Stephanie. “He was our dad and we can never get that back. I miss the way he used to text us before a big test, or the way he’d call just to say he loved us.
“I used to be so excited when I got home from school on the weekend to walk in the house and he was sitting there waiting for us. But now when I walk in the house he’s not there and he will never be again, and that’s hard for us.”
Lisa and her daughters contrast their situation with that of Francis.
“He had Christmas with his dad last year and he can see his dad, but we no longer have that option. Ours is gone,” said Stacie.
The family recently traveled to Washington to attend the National Law Enforcement Memorial Week. While there, they placed a rose in a wreath with Hood’s name on it and saw her husband’s name engraved in the monument for officers killed in the line of duty.
The visit stirred mixed emotions – sorrow for the way he died, pride for the recognition he received for the career he chose.
“Steve loved being a trooper,” said Lisa. “He died doing what he loved. If he had it to do over again he wouldn’t hesitate to chase that car to uphold the law.”
Contact Danza Johnson at (662) 678-1583 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Danza Johnson/NEMS Daily Journal