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Crawford Legacy Cut Short With Donnie Ray's Murder

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Rogers County Sheriff Scott Walton said the Crawfords are a storybook racing family. Rogers County Sheriff Scott Walton said the Crawfords are a storybook racing family.
Three generations of an Oklahoma racing dynasty. Three generations of an Oklahoma racing dynasty.
The tragedy took place in this Broken Arrow home Saturday, January 14. The tragedy took place in this Broken Arrow home Saturday, January 14.
Donnie Ray Crawford died at the hand of his maternal grandfather. His parents were wounded defending him. Donnie Ray Crawford died at the hand of his maternal grandfather. His parents were wounded defending him.
BROKEN ARROW, Oklahoma -

Racing fans around the world are remembering Donnie Ray Crawford. Just hours before Donnie Ray was scheduled to race in the Chili Bowl, his grandfather - for apparently no reason - shot and killed the 24-year-old racer.

The man who started the fight, Daniel Garcia, was also killed as Donnie Ray's parents tried to protect their son. It was a shocking end to a life filled with so much promise, of continuing the legacy his other grandfather started.

The Crawford family boasts three generations of champions. It was a legacy started by Ray Crawford, passed on to his son Donnie, and nurtured in grandson Donnie Ray.

The Crawfords are considered the "first family" of Oklahoma racing and a big reason the Chili Bowl calls Tulsa home.

"It is the greatest dirt track race in the nation, in the world for that matter, and people don't realize it's right in the backyard," said Donnie Ray Crawford in 2011.

1/14/2012 Related Story: Chili Bowl Racer Donnie Ray Crawford III Killed By His Grandfather

"I would call them a storybook, model, icon family for the sport of racing," said Rogers County Sheriff Scott Walton.

Most people know Scott Walton as the sheriff of Rogers County, but he's also a racing fanatic.

"I grew up and my father took to the races. I idolized as a child Ray Crawford. He was a hero to all of us," Walton said.

Over the years, Sheriff Walton got to know them well. He calls Donnie and Jodie Crawford's home a gathering place for the racing community.

"This is not a family that has that type of drama, violence or problems in their family," the sheriff said.

"It makes it even that much more of a tragedy when you see that this young man lost his life that way."

Sheriff Walton says it's heartbreaking to watch the Crawford parents lose a son, and tragic for racing fans to lose a rising star.

"The word ambassador - they take that to the highest level anybody could. He was proud to be a local racer," said Rogers County Sheriff Scott Walton.

And proud to help out -- as he did in 2008, when he saved a 12-year-old girl's life during a fiery crash in Oklahoma City.

4/9/2008 Related Story: Race Car Driver Hailed A Hero

"It always feels good to be called a hero. But I just feel like anybody would have done it, and I was just at the right place at the right time," said Donnie Ray Crawford after the rescue.

It's that can-do attitude Sheriff Walton says will always live inside the hallways of the Chili Bowl.

"When you're walking through and you hear the name Crawford or Donnie Ray - there's only one Donnie Ray," Walton said.

The Medical Examiner is still trying to piece together what happened during the struggle that killed Donnie Ray Crawford and his other grandfather, Daniel Garcia.

No funeral arrangements have been made just yet -- but you can share memories and pictures of Donnie Ray with the Crawford family.

Send stories and photos to d.muly@cox.net.

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