Officials: NY Trooper Probably Killed By Friendly Fire

Friday, April 27th 2007, 4:20 pm
By: News On 6

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) _ The bullet, one of dozens that rang out in the farmhouse in a few desperate moments, was meant to save David Brinkerhoff, not kill him.

He and six other troopers from the state police's elite mobile response team were looking for police shooting suspect Travis Trim in the house Wednesday morning when the gunman, holed up in an upstairs bedroom, opened fire, police said Friday.

Trim shot Brinkerhoff in the chest. The bullet bounced off his body armor but knocked him back, possibly on one knee, acting State Police Superintendent Preston Felton said.

The troopers fired about 70 bullets in response. Three hit their target. One, Felton said, apparently hit Brinkerhoff in the back of the head, even though the 29-year-old father of a baby girl was wearing a Kevlar helmet.

``In a firefight such as this, and our members are highly trained, what it appears happened here is that Trooper Brinkerhoff was struck in the chest and was knocked back,'' Felton said. ``Other members came to his aid and started to return fire at the shooter. At some point Trooper Brinkerhoff ended up getting hit by a round.

``Common? No,'' Felton said. ``This was a very volatile situation.''

Another trooper, Richard Mattson, was shot in the arm by Trim in the Catskill-area farmhouse. He remained in serious condition at an Albany hospital Friday.

Trim, 23, on the run because he had been suspected of shooting another trooper Tuesday, was killed when troopers shot him once in the head and twice in the chest, according to autopsy results announced Friday. ``It's our belief he was killed almost instantaneously,'' Felton said.

Police didn't know Trim was dead until hours after the gunbattle. After the troopers grabbed their wounded colleagues, the Margaretville house was surrounded most of Wednesday while police sent in a robot to probe.

The farmhouse was destroyed hours later in a fire that erupted as troopers closed in. Felton said Friday that it apparently started when a police tear gas round landed on a bedspread.

Trim's badly burned body, holding a rifle, was found inside.

The seven troopers wore body armor and carried assault rifles as they entered the farmhouse, a vacant seasonal residence where Trim had tripped an alarm that morning, police said. The house was several hundred yards from where Trim had abandoned a stolen minivan the afternoon before.

Trim, hiding in an upstairs bedroom, shot Brinkerhoff with a small-caliber handgun and Mattson with a .30-30 rifle, Felton said. Four troopers also fired, Felton said, without elaborating on whether Brinkerhoff and Mattson were among them.

The bullet that killed Brinkerhoff may have been a ricochet, Felton added.

The new details about the deadly encounter were based on ``an autopsy and preliminary forensic review,'' Felton said, adding that the full analysis of the information is not yet complete.

Trim had been on the run since Tuesday, when police say he shot a trooper after he was stopped driving the stolen minivan. That trooper's body armor prevented him from being seriously hurt, police said.

Trim's grandmother said the results of the preliminary investigation change little about her shock at her grandson's actions.

``It would make me feel a lot better but I'm still disgusted that he would be shooting at troopers,'' said Ruth Trim, 76, of Dickinson Center, N.Y. ``We need our troopers. It's an awful world out there.''

Trim had been on probation for a driving while intoxicated conviction. A warrant was issued for his arrest in December after he stopped seeing his probation officer and was charged with marijuana possession and buying beer for underage people.

However, the director of St. Lawrence County's probation department and local police told the Ogdensburg Journal that they never received the warrant, issued out of Canton Village Court.

Brinkerhoff is the third trooper to be shot and killed in the line of duty since March 2006 _ a tragic stretch of time for the state police in which two other on-duty troopers died in vehicle accidents and another was killed while on foot patrol in Iraq.