The rifle that may have been used in the shootings of New York State Troopers Joseph Longobardo and Donald Baker Jr. was found by law enforcement officials. The Buffalo News published a detailed article on the discovery, which is shown below.
By T.J. PIGNATARO
News Staff Reporter
The rifle that is believed to have been used by Ralph "Bucky" Phillips to shoot Troopers Joseph A. Longobardo and Donald H. Baker Jr. on Aug. 31 was recovered in Chautauqua County on Sunday, according to State Police.
The .308-caliber rifle was found by troopers continuing to search for evidence in the case against Phillips, 44, the Stockton native who eluded authorities for more than five months before his capture Friday just over the state line in Akeley, Pa. State Police made the announcement of the rifle’s recovery Tuesday but refused to disclose where it was found.
"It was in an area known to be frequented by Ralph Phillips," Trooper Rebecca Gibbons said.
Longobardo, 32, and Baker, 38, were shot near the property of Phillips’ former girlfriend in the Town of Pomfret. Police said the bullet that struck Longobardo in the upper left thigh, severing a major artery, is consistent with ammunition from a .308-caliber rifle.
Longobardo suffered severe blood loss. He was hospitalized in Erie County Medical Center, Buffalo, for three days before he died. Longobardo was buried Monday in Saratoga National Cemetery.
Baker, who was shot in the back, remained in critical condition Tuesday in Hamot Medical Center, Erie, Pa.
Both the rifle and bullet were sent to the State Forensic Lab in Albany to determine if it was used to shoot Longobardo and Baker. The weapon also will be examined for fingerprints, Gibbons said.
Phillips remains in custody in Chemung County Jail, where he will remain until his trial on attempted murder charges in connection with the June 10 shooting of Trooper Sean Brown.
Chautauqua County District Attorney David Foley expects it to be several months before a case against Phillips in the double shooting is presented to a grand jury. Phillips remains the prime suspect in the shootings of Longobardo and Baker.
His incarceration provides prosecutors in Chautauqua County the luxury of taking additional time to construct their case against him. Typically, criminal proceedings are required to begin immediately after charges are filed to satisfy "speedy trial" provisions.
Federal authorities are also expected to decide over the next several days whether Phillips will also face federal weapons and other charges.
In the meantime, State Police continued combing areas of Chautauqua County on Tuesday for evidence related to the Phillips investigation. Troopers in Pennsylvania said they are also hunting for weapons or evidence Phillips may have left behind there in the hours leading up to his capture. As of late Tuesday, nothing had been found, according to a trooper at the Warren, Pa., barracks.
Gibbons said the rifle found Sunday was one of six rifles stolen late last month during the burglary of Tom’s Gun Shop in Ellington. In all, 41 guns were taken from the shop sometime overnight Aug. 26.
Thirty-five of those weapons were recovered by Pennsylvania State Police a few days later in the Ludlow, Pa., trailer of Todd A. Nelson. Nelson, 30, called police to report a pistol of his had been stolen. When troopers came to investigate, they uncovered the cache of stolen weapons, police said.
Nelson was indicted Tuesday by a federal grand jury in Erie, Pa., on federal firearms charges. The two-count indictment alleges that Nelson provided Phillips with a 9 mm handgun. He is also charged with possessing the 35 stolen firearms. If convicted, Nelson faces up to 20 years in prison and a $500,000 fine.
Nelson was initially arrested Sept. 5 by Pennsylvania State Police and charged with hindering prosecution of Phillips for allegedly allowing Phillips to hide in his trailer for 11 days.
News Staff Reporter Dan Herbeck and the Associated Press contributed to this report.