Honors for Troopers

At the annual New York State Police Awards & Memorial Ceremony on May 16, numerous State Police members were honored, including those members who were killed in the line of duty. The PBA congratulates our members who were honored for their dedication and hard work, and we continue to remember our Troopers who made the ultimate sacrifice.

Below is an article from the Times Union newspaper of Albany about the ceremony.

By CAROL DeMARE, Staff writer
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First published: Thursday, May 17, 2007

ALBANY — The widow of Trooper Joseph Longobardo accepted the State Police’s highest award posthumously on Wednesday, brushed away tears and hugged the troopers who came to her husband’s aid when he was shot last summer.

Teri Longobardo stood stoically, holding the couple’s year-old son, Louis, as details of her 32-year-old husband’s death were recited to a packed auditorium at the State Police Academy.

He was gunned down in rural western New York on Aug. 31 by fugitive Ralph "Bucky" Phillips. He died three days later on Sept. 1.

"Joe’s absence leaves a big hole in our hearts," State Police Acting Superintendent Preston L. Felton said in handing Teri Longobardo the Brummer Award for heroism.

Standing next to her and also receiving the Brummer Award was Donald H. Baker Jr. of Clifton Park. He too was shot by Phillips and suffered serious abdominal injuries that required multiple surgeries.

When he returns to duty, Baker, 39, who was recently promoted from trooper to sergeant, will report to the Princetown barracks of Troop G. He had been assigned to the Northway Interstate Patrol. Longobardo of Greenfield was assigned to the Wilton Barracks.

For three hours Wednesday, the 4,800-member Division of State Police memorialized their own, first at a ceremony at the site of the State Police Memorial outside the academy and later at the awards presentation.

The day included the laying of wreaths, a gun salute, taps, bagpipes and drums, and a flyover by a State Police helicopter.

"We’ve had a series of losses in the past 14 months like no other time in our 90-year history," Retired State Police Maj. Timothy McAuliffe, a former director of the State Police Laboratory, said. But the agency is "strong and resilient. The black stripe on the trousers (of the trooper’s uniform) is a constant reminder of those who fell."

Seated in the front row were two reminders of that toll — Teri Longobardo and Barbara Brinkerhoff. Trooper David C. Brinkerhoff, 29, of Coxsackie was killed last month in a shootout in Delaware County during a manhunt for fugitive Travis Trim. Brinkerhoff was caught in the crossfire and killed by another trooper’s bullet.

Trooper Richard Mattson, 39, who was injured in that same exchange, was also seated in the front row. He and Brinkerhoff entered a farmhouse looking for Trim as members of the Mobile Response Team, a highly trained SWAT-like unit. Longobardo and Baker were MRT members.

Mattson, of Dutchess County, was hit in the left arm with slug believed to be from a .30-30 rifle fired by Trim. He underwent six hours of surgery at Albany Medical Center Hospital. He was released last week.

"It’s been tough in the last eight months to lose two great people, Joe and Dave," Mattson told reporters. "I’ll recover," but his concerns will remain with Brinkerhoff’s family. Brinkerhoff also left an infant daughter, Isabella.

"I’m healing," he said. "But I have a long way to go, about eight months."

The Brummer Award, established in 1968 by Wall Street financier Bertram F. Brummer, and given 87 times, including 11 times posthumously, recognizes valor, heroism and outstanding performance. It was the highest of more than 50 commendations given out Wednesday.

Also walking onto the stage to receive a Superintendent’s Commendation Award was Trooper Sean Brown, who was shot by Phillips on June 10 during a traffic stop near Elmira, touching off the longest manhunt in State Police history.

Brown, of Troop C in Sidney, was hit in the abdomen. Trooper Donald M. Will, who drove Brown to a hospital, received the same honor.

At the end of August — after troopers’ untold hours searching for Phillips — Longobardo and Baker were conducting surveillance in Pomfret, Chautauqua County, near Phillips’ ex-girlfriend’s home.

At about 6:15 p.m., "Phillips coldly and cowardly opened fire with a .308 rifle striking both" troopers, said State Police Col. Pedro J. Perez, who heads the Internal Affairs Unit.

Longobardo returned fire while Baker called for help. Four MRT members responded and all received Superintendent’s Commendation Awards — Sgt. Robert A. Buell and Troopers John A. Hill, James A. Schweiger and Jason D. Soden.

"We weep for the loss we feel," Perez said. In time, the sorrow will give way to "feeling proud to know such selfless, courageous and honorable men."

He turned to Baker: "You placed yourself as a shield between us and evil people."

Tracy Baker stood behind her husband and several members of both families were on stage. Teri Longobardo wiped away tears and put her arm around her husband’s former partner.

Gov. Eliot Spitzer, the first speaker at the awards ceremony, offered words of comfort. To date, he said, "121 troopers have given their lives in the line of duty. Let’s hope the number 121 will remain forever."

Link to the Times Union newspaper