Operation Iraqi Freedom, Fallen Heroes, Iraq War 03/19/03

Rollin Gray

Spanaway, Washington

April 21, 2016

Age Military Rank Unit/Location
61 Navy  

 

 Killed on motorcycle by 2 street racers.

 

From KOMO komonews.com 04/22/16

'He loved his country and his family': Family remembers veteran killed by street racers
BY GABE COHEN FRIDAY, APRIL 22ND 2016

SPANAWAY, Wash. -- Rollin Gray's family is grieving for the 61-year-old Vietnam veteran who died Thursday, two days after he was hit on his motorcycle by a car deputies say was involved in a street race.

The Pierce County Sherriff's Office says they cited two drivers at that Spanaway crash. They believe the teenagers were street racing in their cars.

Rollin Gray was not involved in the race. He was returning home after dropping off his partner, Tina.

"We said 'I love you' as we always do," Tina Austin said. "He was special to everyone who knew him."

Austin sat at a table covered with photos and medals Friday. She says Gray was a veteran of the Vietnam and Gulf Wars who also beat cancer. He has a 17-year-old son who's still in high school.

Now she's left wondering why two teenagers would be so reckless on the road.

"I'm angry right now," she said. "keep your street racing on the race track, not a public road."

Tina remembers a free spirited man, who loved playing the banjo, and always smiled. She says his corneas were donated after his death.

Gray's last adventure was the Combat Veterans Motorcycle Association, where he pursued his passion of motorcycles with many other veterans who became family.

"He's my brother," Gary Dejaurlis said, clutching Gray's vest while sporting his own. "This is all I have left."

Dejaurlis says Gray would do anything for other people. He cites his own experience, claiming the 61-year-old convinced him to seek treatment for issues that stem from experience in the military.

"I went from a zero rating to 100 percent because he kept pushing me and pushing me," Dejaurlis said.

The Sheriff's Office says the teenage drivers will more than likely be charged for their roles in the crash. The Pierce County Prosecutor's Office said Friday that they have not received any information from police yet, but they expect to early next week.
From The News Tribune thenewstribune.com 04/22/16

Motorcyclist killed by street racers in Frederickson was ‘larger than life’

Rollin Gray was driving home on his 2006 Harley when he was hit by car driven by a teen witnesses said was racing with another car

Two teens cited in the accident but not yet charged

Gray was a Navy veteran, banjo player and motorcycle enthusiast

BY STACIA GLENN

Rollin Gray left an impression.

The 61-year-old Frederickson man made friends golfing, playing the banjo onstage, riding his Harley around town and raising money for fellow veterans.

He was riding his motorcycle home about 10:45 p.m. Tuesday when, a block and a half from his house, a 16-year-old lost control of his car while street racing with a classmate and crashed into Gray.

He was thrown several feet into some shrubs. A neighbor and the teen driver pulled the bike off the gravely injured Gray, who begged them to take care of his 17-year-old son at home.

Those were his last words.

Gray was taken to St. Joseph Medical Center in Tacoma with severe injuries to his head, back and leg. He underwent three surgeries back to back but never regained consciousness before dying Thursday.

His wife of 10 years, Becky Gray, was holding his hand.

In addition to his wife, Gray is survived by his son Rollin Earl Gray, 17; daughter Nicole, 29; and two grandchildren.

Becky Gray remembers the first time she met her husband. He found her on an online dating website and sent her a photograph.

“It was a picture of a skinny guy holding a banjo and he was cute as dickens,” Becky Gray recalled Friday.

They chatted online for a long time before Gray persuaded her to stop by his house on her birthday. His bluegrass band, Round the Bend, was just getting started then, but he had them play “Happy Birthday” to her.

Becky Gray was smitten.

As a young man, Gray joined the Navy, which is something of a family business, and spent years working on big aircraft carriers. He served in the Vietnam War and Desert Storm.

Afterward, he worked at Tahoma National Cemetery in Kent, where he helped tend to other veterans. His next venture was operating a dump truck company he managed and drove for until medically retiring.

In recent years, he gave time to the Combat Veteran Motorcycle Association, which raises funds to support fellow veterans and their families.

That’s where he met Gary and Dawn DeJarlais.

“He loved his motorcycle, he loved his family, he was an amazing guy,” Dawn DeJarlais said. “He was always right there for his friends and he never turned anybody away. Everything was positive, even the negative. He was genuine.”

She laughed remembering how people could hear his bluegrass music blaring on his Harley before seeing him ride up.

Gray loved music, fishing and golfing. He loved road trips with friends and helping others.

His motorcycle riding began as a young boy and grew into an obsession when he was about 13.

He was asked to appear in the final scene for the 1971 documentary, “On Any Sunday,” a film about racing enthusiasts that won an Academy Award nomination in 1972.

In one scene, Gray jumped his motorcycle over a camera operator .

“He was always larger than life,” Becky Gray said. “He would walk in a room and talk to everybody in the room. Nobody escaped. And everybody got a big hug, a real hug.”

The Pierce County Sheriff’s Department is investigating the collision that killed Gray and destroyed his 2006 Harley Davidson.

Sheriff’s spokesman Ed Troyer gave this account of the wreck:

A 16-year-old Spanaway boy with a learner’s permit and an 18-year-old friend in the passenger seat ran into another boy from school at a gas station and chatted about his 2004 Dodge Stratus and the other boy’s 2004 Acura TSX.

Later, witnesses said, the boys were racing west on 182nd Street East reaching speeds of 90 mph. The Acura passed the Dodge in the eastbound lanes and then cut in front of the Dodge.

The teen driving the Dodge lost control of the car, which crossed into oncoming traffic and hit Gray’s motorcycle. It then crashed into a mailbox and a fence.

The Acura driver sped off. The driver and the passenger in the Dodge stayed, helped pull the motorcycle off Gray and waited for deputies.

Drugs and alcohol are not believed to be involved in the collision.

Deputies cited both drivers and released them. Prosecutors will decide whether to file charges.

Becky Gray doesn’t want to place blame on anyone but she can’t stop thinking about why teenagers were out driving so late. Why their parents weren’t watching them closer. Why they were driving so fast in a residential neighborhood.

“The ‘whys’ keep going through my head,” she said. “Rollin didn’t have a chance.”
From KOMO komonews.com 04/22/16

Police: Teenage car racers hit and kill respected war veteran
BY MATT MARKOVICH FRIDAY, APRIL 22ND 2016

TACOMA, Wash. (KOMO) -- A Vietnam and Iraq War veteran from Spanaway died Thursday following a crash with two cars that police say were street racing.

Rollin Gray, 61, died at St. Joseph's Hospital in Tacoma on Thursday after being taken there following the Tuesday night accident.

Pierce County sheriff's deputies say Gray was traveling eastbound on 182st East in Spanaway when two cars came over the horizon at a high rate of speed in the opposite direction.
Deputies say a red 2004 Dodge Stratus, driven by a 16-year-old boy from Spanaway with only a learner's permit, was racing with a black 2004 Acura TSX driven by an 18-year-old man from Spanaway.

Witnesses told police the Acura and Dodge drivers met up at a gas station at 176th St. E. and 22nd Ave. E. Both drivers knew each other from school and exchanged comments on each other's vehicles. Both vehicles left the gas station and traveled side roads.

Witnesses told investigators they saw and heard both vehicles racing on 182nd St. E. The 18-year-old driver then cut in front of the 16-year-old driver, causing him to lose control and cross into oncoming traffic. The Stratus struck the motorcycle being ridden by Gray. The driver of the Acura left the area and was later contacted by deputies.

Gray and his black 2006 Harley-Davidson motorcycle were found by a witness in shrubs on the side of the road. Gray was suffering from severe injuries to his leg, head and back.

"It makes everyone so angry, it was a senseless stupid accident," said friend Bill Saxton, who is also a riding member in a motorcycle club Gray belonged to, the Combat Veterans Motorcycle Association.

"Our organizations mottos is vets helping vets. If anyone needed help, Rollin was there," says Saxton.

He says Gray was a veteran of the Vietnam War. After fighting overseas, he battled cancer and won. It was enough of a motivation for Gray to rejoin the military, serving the combat zone during the Iraq War.

"They have taken a man's life who did nothing but give to this country, give to his community, raise a family," said Saxton. "He still has a son who's not even out of high school yet, I believe he's 15-years-old, he's his namesake and now he's left without a father."

Deputies say there were no signs of impairment were observed from either of the drivers or an 18-year-old passenger in the Dodge. The drivers of the Dodge and of the Acura were both cited and released. That was before Gray's death. It's now up to the Pierce County Prosecutor to decide if the pair warrant stiffer charges.

Saxton says Gray will be buried at a place he word at for several years, were many local vets are buried, the Tahoma National Cemetery. Saxton says that's where Gray father, also a vet is buried.
From FOX Q13 q13fox.com 04/22/16:

Motorcyclist, 61, killed after teens crash while street racing in Spanaway, deputies say
POSTED 2:19 PM, APRIL 22, 2016, BY Q13 NEWS STAFF

SPANAWAY, Wash. — A motorcyclist was killed after authorities say two cars driven by teens crashed while street racing Tuesday in Spanaway.

According to the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department, a 16-year-old boy driving a Dodge Stratus met an 18-year-old boy driving an Acura TSX at a Spanaway gas station. Det. Ed Troyer said the drivers knew each other from school and exchanged words before leaving the gas station at 176th St E & 22nd Ave E.

Witnesses told deputies that both cars were racing on 182nd St E. around 10:45 p.m.

Troyer said both cars were heading west when the Acura drove into the eastbound lanes and cut off the Dodge. The driver of the Dodge lost control, crossed into oncoming traffic and struck a motorcycle.

The 61-year-old motorcyclist crashed into a mailbox and a fence before he was thrown into some bushes. He suffered severe injuries to his leg, head and back.

Authorities said the driver was taken to a nearby hospital but died on Thursday. He was later identified as Rollin Lee Gray.

Deputies said neither of the drivers appeared to be impaired at the time.

The driver of the Acura left the scene of the crash but was later contacted by deputies.

The 16-year-old driver of the Dodge had only a learner’s permit and was driving with an 18-year-old male passenger.

Both were cited and released pending further investigation.

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