The New York State Police has reassigned a trooper who resigned from a special unit after he inadvertently killed another officer during a 2007 shootout with a fugitive, according to an internal report.
Trooper Norville Yearwood still works for the state police.
State police say Yearwood shot Trooper David Brinkerhoff on April 25, 2007, during a gun battle with Travis Trim in which more than 80 bullets were fired.
Brinkerhoff, who was 29, killed Trim, a 23-year-old from North Lawrence, with a shot to the temple just before he was hit by Yearwood’s bullet.
The Delaware County district attorney found no reason to bring criminal charges against the officer.
State police have two equally likely theories about what happened that day.
The report indicates that Brinkerhoff may have unwittingly raised his head — into the line of fire — the same moment Yearwood fired a shot at Trim. Another theory has Yearwood lowering his aim to fire at Trim, but hitting Brinkerhoff instead.
Brinkerhoff and Yearwood were both members of the force’s SWAT-style mobile response team. The troopers are trained to handle high-risk entries, hostage situations, dignitary protection, evacuations and rescues. The team members get six additional months’ training.
Since Brinkerhoff’s death, state police now call the unit a special operations team, and troopers assigned to it are permanently installed at one of four teams in the state. Previously, teams were assembled only when needed, and members spent time doing regular police work.
State police have also dedicated new security equipment to those teams and assigned psychologists to monitor how candidates for the unit handle high-stress situations.
“The State Police, historically, has been reactive when it comes to safety issues,” said Daniel De Federicis, president of the state troopers Police Benevolent Association, in a written statement. “The PBA’s priority is the safety and well-being of our members. Our focus often means that we have to force the agency to implement further safety training, equipment and policies to prevent subsequent deaths or injuries that could result from negligence by the agency.”
Police said Trim shot another trooper during a traffic stop, striking his body armor, a day before the shootout. He then fled and hid in the farmhouse until police discovered him.