Negligence lawsuit dismissed in Brinkerhoff shooting case
By Brian Sweeney
A judge has dismissed a $100 million negligence lawsuit filed by the widow of a New York State trooper killed in a 2007 shootout in Margaretville.
The lawsuit by the family of Trooper David Brinkerhoff claimed St. Lawrence County officials were negligent when they allowed fugitive Travis Trim to remain free despite multiple probation violations.
In a ruling last week, State Supreme Court Justice David Demarest said that a St. Lawrence County Probation Department’s delay in issuing an arrest warrant for Trim did not contribute to Trooper Brinkerhoff’s death.
Trooper Brinkerhoff was killed by friendly fire during a gunfight in a Route 30 farmhouse on April 25, 2007. He was among a group of troopers that stormed the Margaretville home where the 23-year-old Trim was hiding the day after shooting another trooper during a traffic stop. Trim also was killed in the incident.
Justice Demarest dismissed the lawsuit last week in a 14-page ruling, concluding that the delay “was not a factor which indirectly produced this tragic result.”
Marc Albert, the Brinkerhoff family’s attorney, told an update newspaper that the family disagreed with Demarest’s conclusions.
“We believe it to be clear that a different result would have been reached if the warrant had been timely sought by the probation department and the police department timely notified, allowing the authorities to apprehend an unsuspecting Trim,” Albert stated. “The negligence of the probation department led to a far different scenario.”
The attorney said he will decide whether to appeal after conferring with the trooper’s family.
The lawsuit was filed last August by Barbara Brinkerhoff and her infant daughter, Isabella, seeking unspecified damages against the probation department. In a notice of claim filed in February 2008, the family indicated it was seeking $100 million.
The lawsuit contended that if county officials had properly handled the warrant, Trim could have been arrested months before Brinkerhoff was killed.
Judge Demarest ruled that while the delay of the warrant may have allowed Trim to remain at large for several months, it was Trim’s shooting of another trooper that prompted a mobile response team (which included Brinkerhoff) that eventually led to the confrontation with Trim.
Trooper Matthew Gombosi was shot by Trim during a traffic stop at the Margaretville Country Store on April 24. The trooper was saved from serious injury by his bullet-proof vest. Trim fled the scene and was located the following day in a farmhouse on Route 30 that served as a seasonal home.
Trooper Brinkerhoff was killed by a bullet from another trooper when police stormed the farmhouse in an attempt to overtake Trim. Trooper David Mattson was also seriously injured in the incident. After a daylong standoff, police fired tear gas into the farmhouse and it eventually burned down. Trim’s body was discovered a short time later and it was determined that he had been killed during the morning gunfight.
The Brinkerhoff family also sued under the state’s general obligation laws, but Judge Demarest said the filing under that provision was submitted too late.