The Schoharie County sheriff’s deputy involved in a fatal police chase has been named in a legal filing by a lawyer for the estate of Joshua Camp, the 31-year-old Middleburgh man who died after being struck by the deputy’s patrol vehicle during a pursuit in June.
The filing names sheriff’s Deputy Thomas Mudge as the officer involved in the chase. Mudge’s name has not been released by authorities.
Anthony Cardona, of Maguire Cardona P.C., filed a notice of claim Oct. 27 in state Supreme Court on behalf of Camp’s daughter, Hailey Disbury Camp. The claimant in the filing is Suzanne Fuchs, Disbury Camp’s legal guardian, who is also her maternal grandmother.
Fuchs is the administrator of Camp’s estate, according to Schoharie County Surrogate Court filings. Disbury Camp’s mother is deceased, Cardona said.
The notice of claim lists Mudge as a respondent to the action both individually and in his capacity as a law enforcement officer. The filing also names Schoharie County and the Schoharie County Sheriff’s Office as respondents.
The filing claims the county, sheriff’s office and Mudge were “negligent, careless and reckless in connection with the June 17, 2016, incident which caused the death of Joshua Camp.”
The chase occurred at around 7 p.m. on June 17. According to a statement from state police the next day, a Schoharie County deputy tried to pull Camp over for driving an unregistered dirt bike. When Camp fled, the deputy gave chase.
“The brief pursuit terminated on a lawn behind a private residence on Grieble [sic] Lane when Camp lost control of the dirt bike, was ejected, and subsequently struck by the deputy’s marked patrol vehicle,” read the statement from police on June 18.
Camp was treated at the scene and was airlifted to Albany Medical Center, where he later died from his injuries, according to police. The state police Bureau of Criminal Investigation and Collision Reconstruction Unit were called to the scene that night and are investigating the incident. They have yet to release their report.
The notice of claim states if the county doesn’t pay a negotiated amount to Camp’s estate, or if the county ignores the notice, then a wrongful death lawsuit will be filed.
Cardona would not get specific about a settlement figure but said the estate is seeking a seven-figure sum from the county.
Schoharie County Sheriff Anthony Desmond said on Oct. 28 that his office had been served with the notice of claim. County Attorney Michael West could not be reached for comment, but Desmond said the county had been served as well. Desmond said he does not know if Mudge, whom he did not identify by name, has been served. Mudge has not returned multiple requests for comment.
Desmond previously told The Daily Gazette that the deputy in question returned to work July 20, and that he personally interviewed and cleared the deputy to return to active duty. Desmond said the deputy continues to be employed by the Sheriff’s Department.
Schoharie County District Attorney James Sacket on Oct. 28 said the case is likely headed toward a grand jury, though whether it’s called at the county or state level remains to be seen.
In July, Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed an executive order appointing the state attorney general as special prosecutor in cases where law enforcement officers are involved in the death of civilians.
“The investigation is nearing completion, and then the attorney general will decide whether it’s a case they’re going to adopt or whether it will be handled by a local district attorney,” Sacket said.
Eric Soufer, a spokesman with the attorney general’s office, said that office is still reviewing the case to see who will handle the grand jury.
Cardona said those involved in the case on all sides are awaiting the outcome of the state police investigation, which will include an accident reconstruction, autopsy and toxicology report.
Cardona believes the chase never should have happened in the first place, and that Mudge knew who Camp was before he began the pursuit.
“This was just completely unnecessary,” said Cardona. “Josh [Camp] was not an angel; he had his demons. But he was doing fine, and this was not called for.”
Sheriff Desmond said he doesn’t believe the deputy or the department knew who Josh Camp was before starting the pursuit.
“I didn’t know him; I don’t think the deputy involved knew him,” Desmond said.
The Daily Gazette has learned the chase began at the Stewart’s Shop on Main Street and Chestnut Lane in Middleburgh, where Camp was getting gas for the dirt bike he was riding at the time of his death, according to friends who were with him right before the incident.
A Stewart’s employee named Joe Schweppe told The Daily Gazette in June that he saw Josh at one of the gas pumps shortly before a sheriff’s deputy pulled up in a marked police SUV. Schweppe said he saw the two talking, and moments later heard the deputy’s siren go off.
Cardona said an investigation by his firm also determined that Camp and Mudge had a conversation at the gas station. The exact route of the chase is unclear. The home on Griebel Lane where the chase ended is a half-mile north of the Stewart’s.
Reach Gazette reporter Dan Fitzsimmons at 852-9605, [email protected] or @DanFitzsimmons on Twitter.