Wednesday, April 25, 2007

New York House Catches Fire During Manhunt

Flames engulf the Marargetville, N.Y., farm house after a police assault during the hunt Wednesday for a man suspected of killing one trooper and wounding two others.

Here is the latest update................Fox 5 New York ............AP Story

-->By MICHAEL HILL Associated Press Writer MARGARETVILLE, N.Y. (AP) -- Massive flames engulfed a farmhouse after a police assault during the hunt Wednesday for a man suspected of killing one trooper and wounding two others. There is a "reasonable degree of certainty" that shooting suspect Travis D. Trim was hiding in the unoccupied house even though police had no communication with him after the fatal shooting, said New York State Police Acting Superintendent Preston L. Felton. "Once the fire is out, then we will go through and search the scene ... and try to locate the remains." The fire erupted soon after an armored vehicle rolled up close and police fired tear gas into the building. SWAT teams tried to enter the house at about 5:50 p.m., but were driven back by the flames. Half the house was burning by 6:15 p.m. The assault came roughly nine hours after two troopers were shot, one fatally, searching the rural home where police believe Trim, 23, took refuge while on the run after the shooting of another trooper Tuesday. Felton said police fired a "non-incendiary type" device containing tear gas into the home at about 6 p.m. as troopers stormed in to search room-by-room for Trim. A robot and cameras mounted on poles had been used to check every room but one where Trim was believed holed up during the day, he said. He said the cause of the fire that thwarted the search isn't known. It's possible Trim set the fire, Felton said, or a tear gas round could have ignited something. "We are looking closer at the type of round that was fired into the residence, the type of tear gas round," he said. Despite witnesses' accounts of gunfire directed at the house, Felton said police did not fire bullets into the structure, just the tear gas rounds. He said investigators won't be able to get into the burned building until Thursday. They will search for Trim and begin trying to determine what caused the fire. Earlier Wednesday, Felton identified the dead trooper as David C. Brinkerhoff, a member of the specially-trained Mobile Response Team and the second member of that unit to die during a manhunt since September. Brinkerhoff and Trooper Richard Mattson were shot at about 8:45 a.m. while searching the farm for Trim, who is suspected of shooting a trooper Tuesday afternoon during a traffic stop in nearby Margaretville, Felton said. Brinkerhoff was hit at least once in the head and Mattson was wounded in the left arm. He was in serious but stable condition after surgery at Albany Medical Center, where he was taken by helicopter. The wounded troopers were pulled from the house by two other officers who were helping search the farm as part of a massive police sweep through the area. Heavily armed officers positioned on hillsides and behind stone walls spent much of the day keeping watch over the farmhouse as the armored vehicle moved around the building and the cameras were used to search inside. The farm, which neighbors described as a weekend residence, is in Arkville, a rural hamlet near Margaretville. Trim's relatives expressed anxiety as the day unfolded. "I don't think there's anyway for this to turn out good now. Not after shooting a trooper. His goose is cooked," said Ruth Trim, the suspect's grandmother, in a telephone interview from her home in northern New York. Brinkerhoff, 29, was an 8-1/2 year state police veteran. He joined the MRT in early 2006. He is survived by his wife, Barbara, and 7-month-old daughter. Mattson, a 6-1/2 year veteran who joined the MRT in 2006, is married with 1-year-old son. "Today, the New York State Police and the State of New York suffered a tremendous loss," Gov. Eliot Spitzer said in a prepared statement. "One of our best has fallen and another has been seriously wounded in the line of duty." The manhunt was touched off by the shooting of Trooper Matthew Gombosi in this town on the edge of Catskill Park at about 3 p.m. Tuesday afternoon. Felton said Gombosi had pulled Trim over for a minor traffic infraction -- most likely the license plate missing from the stolen Dodge Caravan he was driving. When Trim failed to provide identification, Gombosi told him he was under arrest. At that point, Felton said, Trim pulled a handgun from his waistband and fired once at the trooper. Gombosi was hit in the lower left ribs and saved from serious injury by his body armor, police said. After the shooting, police searched for the Caravan, which was later found abandoned. The minivan had been stolen Monday in St. Lawrence County, police said. Trim, 23, is from North Lawrence, in St. Lawrence County about 10 miles south of the Canadian border. He spent 21/2 months at the State University of New York-Canton during the fall semester of 2006 before withdrawing in mid-November, said Randy Sieminski, the school's director of public relations. He was registered in the school's motorsports performance and repair program. Margaretville is about 65 miles southwest of Albany. Last summer, Ralph "Bucky" Phillips led police on a five-month manhunt throughout heavily wooded western New York after breaking out of a county jail. During his time on the run, he shot one trooper during a traffic stop and two others who were searching for him, both members of a special tactics unit that was called in to hunt for the fugitive. One of those troopers later died. Phillips was captured in September and is serving two life sentences. After the intensive manhunt, the largest in New York history, the union that represents state troopers sharply criticized the way state police officials managed the search. The latest shootings follow a hard year for state police. Besides the troopers Phillips shot before he was captured in September, another trooper was gunned down by a bank robber in March near Elmira. Also, one trooper died last April near Syracuse after crashing his vehicle while chasing a speeding motorcyclist and another, a Marine Corps captain, was killed in August while on foot patrol in Fallujah, Iraq.

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