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Cops: Friendly Fire Likely Killed Trooper

Friendly fire apparently killed a New York state trooper as he searched a farmhouse for a suspect in the shooting of a colleague, officials said Friday.

Trooper David C. Brinkerhoff, a member of the force's elite mobile response team, was shot in a gunfight Wednesday as he and other troopers went into a Catskill-area farmhouse where the armed suspect had holed up.

Although the suspect, Travis Trim, shot Brinkerhoff, "the fatal wound was made by a .223 (caliber) tactical round that was believed to have been fired by an MRT member," said acting State Police Superintendent Preston Felton.

Shot along with Brinkerhoff was Trooper Richard Mattson, who was wounded in the left arm but survived.

Felton said Friday an autopsy showed that Trim, 23, also was killed in the gunfight, shot once in the face and twice in the chest. "It's our belief he was killed almost instantaneously," he said.

The Margaretville farmhouse was destroyed hours later in a fire that erupted as troopers, unaware that Trim was dead, closed in on the suspect. His badly burned body was later found inside with a rifle.

Felton said Friday that investigators believe a police tear gas round started the fire.

Felton said Trim fired the round that hit Mattson, and shot Brinkerhoff in the chest with a small-caliber round that the trooper's body armor stopped. Brinkerhoff, who was wearing a Kevlar helmet, was then shot in the back of the head, Felton said.

"In a firefight such as this, and our members are highly trained, what it appears happened here is that Trooper Brinkerhoff was struck in the chest and was knocked back," Felton said. "Other members came to his aid and started to return fire at the shooter. At some point Trooper Brinkerhoff ended up getting hit by a round."

Other members of the MRT pulled Brinkerhoff and Mattson out of the house as other officers rushed to surround the vacant seasonal residence where Trim had taken refuge.

"This was a very volatile situation," Felton said.

The new details about the deadly encounter were based on "an autopsy and preliminary forensic review," Felton said, adding that the full analysis of the information is not yet complete.

Trim had been on the run since Tuesday, when he shot a trooper after he was stopped driving a stolen vehicle. That trooper's body armor prevented him from being seriously hurt, police said.

Brinkerhoff is the third trooper to be shot and killed in the line of duty since March 2006 — a tragic stretch of time for the state police in which two other on-duty troopers died in vehicle accidents and another was killed while on foot patrol in Iraq.