Trooper’s widow files $100 million claim

The widow of a state trooper killed in a shootout last year plans to sue St. Lawrence County for $10
PHOTOGRAPHER:

The widow of a state trooper killed in a shootout last year plans to sue St. Lawrence County for $100 million, claiming officials failed to properly handle a warrant that could have led to a fugitive gunman’s arrest months before her husband died.

Trooper David Brinkerhoff was killed by friendly fire during a gunfight in a Delaware County farmhouse on April 25. He was in a group of troopers who stormed the home where 23-year-old Travis Trim was hiding the day after shooting another trooper during a traffic stop, according to police. Trim was also killed in the exchange of fire and Trooper Richard Mattson was shot in the arm by Trim.

A notice of claim filed on behalf of Barbara Brinkerhoff and her infant daughter Isabella says her 29-year-old husband was killed due to the negligence of the probation department in Trim’s home county. Attorney Marc Albert said Friday the notice — first reported by the Ogdensburg Journal — was mailed to the county Wednesday and will be followed by a lawsuit in state Supreme Court in Canton.

An investigation by the state Department of Probation and Correctional Alternatives found that a warrant to arrest Trim on a probation violation was signed by Canton Village Justice Michael Crowe on Dec. 29, 2006. Court records show it was faxed and mailed Jan. 2, 2007, to the St. Lawrence County Probation Department. Probation officials said they shredded it in keeping with department policy to await the official copy, which did not arrive. Trim remained free.

DPCA investigators found the court practice of sending the warrant back to the probation department rather than directly to police causes needless delay in processing the warrant and increases the possibility it will get lost.

County Probation Director Francine Perretta said last week her department now has a part-time employee to follow up with courts and police to make sure every warrant is executed, though she was not sure it was her department’s job to make sure the police and courts are doing what they’re supposed to.

County Attorney Peter Lekki said Friday he had not yet seen the notice of claim and could not comment.

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