Slain trooper's family files appeal in lawsuit

By Brian Sweeney
An appeal has been filed by the family of a slain New York State Trooper whose $100 million lawsuit was dismissed last month by State Supreme Court Judge David Demarest. Judge Demarest’s ruling said that the St. Lawrence County Probation Department’s actions in handling an arrest warrant for fugitive Travis Trim of North St. Lawrence did not contribute to the death of Trooper David Brinkerhoff.
An appeal was filed last week in the Appellate Division of the State Supreme Court in Albany.
Trooper Brinkerhoff was killed in an April 2007 gunfight at a seasonal home on Route 30, Margaretville when police stormed the house where they believed Trim was hiding. Trooper Brinkerhoff died during the gun battle. A colleague, Trooper Richard Mattson, was seriously injured during the incident. Subsequent investigation revealed that Trooper Brinkerhoff was killed by a bullet fired from another trooper during the raid. Trim also was killed in the exchange of fire.
The lawsuit filed on behalf of Trooper Brinkerhoff’s wife, Barbara, and infant daughter, Isabella, charged that the incident would not have occurred if the St. Lawrence County Probation Department had handled Trim’s case properly.
Judge Demarest’s ruling last month said that while the delay in the county’s handling of the arrest warrant for Trim allowed him to remain free for several months, this fact did not contribute to Trooper Brinkerhoff’s death.
The judge said the fact that Trim had shot Trooper Matthew Gombosi at the Margaretville Country Store the day before the fatal shooting and then was a fugitive overnight, were the factors directly contributing to Trooper Brinkerhoff’s death. Trim was also killed in the incident. Trooper Gombosi was saved from serious injury in the initial shooting by his protective vest.
The Brinkerhoff family additionally sued under the state’s general obligation laws. Judge Demarest ruled the filing under that provision was submitted too late.
In submitting the appeal of Judge Demarest’s ruling, Barbara Brinkerhoff’s attorney wrote, “Plaintiff believes that the court erred in coming to each of these determinations and submits the instant appeal seeking a reversal of Judge Demarest’s March 30, 2009, decision.” Attorney Marc S. Albert, of the Seeger Weiss law firm in New York City represents the Brinkerhoff family.
The lawsuit filed last August sought unspecified damages against the county Probation Department, Probation Director Francine M. Perretta and department employees Allyson Brown and Sai Bristol. A notice of claim filed in February 2008 indicated the family was seeking $100 million.
The family said that St. Lawrence County officials failed to properly handle a warrant that could have led to the fugitive gunman’s arrest months before her husband died.
Trooper Brinkerhoff was killed by friendly fire during a gunfight in a Margaretville farmhouse April 25, 2007. He was in a group of troopers that stormed the home where the 23-year-old Trim was hiding the day after shooting another trooper during a traffic stop, state police said.