Slain trooper's widow files $100 million suit against St. Lawrence County
Probation department destroyed warrant for Travis Trim months before tragedy that killed trooper and fugitive gunman in farmhouse shootout
By Brian Sweeney
The wife of a New York State Trooper who was killed in a shootout with fugitive Travis Trim in Arkville last April has begun a $100 million lawsuit against St. Lawrence County, citing officials‚Äô negligence leading to her husband‚Äôs death.
The notice of claim filed on behalf of Barbara Brinkerhoff and her infant daughter, Isabella, says that David Brinkerhoff died as a result of negligence by the St. Lawrence County Probation Department.
The lawsuit stems from the fact that an investigation by the state Department of Probation and Correctional Alternatives showed that a warrant for Trim‚Äôs arrest had been signed by Canton Village Justice Michael Crowe on December 26, 2006. Records indicate that the warrant was faxed and mailed on January 2, 2007 to the county probation department. Officials there said they shredded the fax, as per department policy, while awaiting the original document. The original, they claimed, never arrived.
Trooper Brinkerhoff, 29, of Coxsackie was killed on April 26, 2007 after a gunfight with Trim. The suspect had shot Trooper Matthew Gombosi the previous day in the parking lot of the Margaretville Country Store. The trooper‚Äôs life was saved by body armor, but Trim fled the scene in a van.
The van was discovered a short time later near Cemetery Road, Margaretville. After an all-night search for Trim, an alarm was sounded in an abandoned farmhouse nearby. Seven members of the NYS Troopers Mobile Response Team entered the farmhouse and exchanged gunfire with Trim. During the episode, Trim shot Trooper Brinkerhoff in his protective body armor. He was not injured by the bullet, but the blast caused him to fall and he was struck in the head by a shot from another trooper.
During the same incident, Trooper Richard Mattson was struck in the arm by gunfire from Trim and suffered serious injuries.
The notice of claim that was filed on behalf of Barbara Brinkerhoff and her daughter states that the negligence by the St. Lawrence County Probation Department led to Trooper Brinkerhoff‚Äôs death.
Her attorney Marc Albert said that the notice was mailed to St. Lawrence County last week. A lawsuit will follow in state Supreme Court in Canton.
The Trim shooting was covered live by news outlets across the country. Following the gunfire exchange just after 8 a.m., hundreds of police officers engaged in a standoff at the farmhouse. The troopers had evacuated the house, pulling the two wounded troopers outside, and were not certain of Trim‚Äôs status.
The standoff lasted throughout the day and media and other spectators descended upon the area. Just before evening, troopers fired tear gas into the farmhouse in an attempt to force Trim to evacuate. The tear gas ignited a bed and within minutes the structure was fully involved in flames. The incident was covered live by all major New York newspapers and TV networks, including CNN.
Investigation revealed that Trim had been killed during the morning gunfight.