Trooper Shot By Escaped Inmate Dies

In this undated photo released by the New York State Police Department, Trooper Joseph Longobardo is shown. Longobardo is hospitalized in critical condition Friday, Sept. 1, 2006, one of two state troopers shot in an ambush while staking out the hometown of an escaped convict's girlfriend.
AP/New York State Police, file
One of two troopers ambushed while searching for an escaped convict died Sunday of his injuries, and state police vowed to capture the man they believe killed him.

Joseph Longobardo was shot in the leg Thursday night while staking out the property of a former girlfriend of Ralph "Bucky" Phillips. He died at a Buffalo hospital, a day after his leg was amputated, with his wife at his side, State Police Superintendent Wayne Bennett said.

His death came in the midst of one of the largest manhunts in New York history. State police warn that Phillips, who has been on the run for five months, could hurt anyone who gets in his way.

"You can run but you can't hide. Sooner or later, I don't care how good you are, we will find you," Bennett said.

Troopers held a candlelight vigil Sunday for Longobardo, 32, and Donald Baker Jr., 38, who was also shot in the woods of Chautauqua County. Baker, who was shot in the back, remained in critical condition in a medically induced coma, police said.

"We are not going to put up with it," police spokeswoman Rebecca Gibbons said after the vigil. "He's angered a family, and we're going to be out here until he is in custody."

Hundreds of police, 140 a shift, searched rural western New York for Phillips, the prime suspect in the sniper-style shootings. Others gathered at the vigil in Hamburg, about 10 miles south of Buffalo.

Phillips, 44, has been on the run since April, when he cut his way out of an Erie County jail with a can opener.

Since then, he has been suspected in the nonfatal shooting of another trooper in June near Elmira in southern New York, and police said he has survived on the run by stealing about 15 vehicles and breaking into hunting camps and a gun shop.

Police hadn't been able to interview the injured troopers because of their conditions. One trooper managed to return fire Thursday, but police did not say whether the sniper, who fired from less than 100 yards away in the woods, was hit.

Authorities say his disdain for police was well known. Sheriff's officials said that when he was released or transferred from the Chautauqua County jail several years ago, he left officials a note threatening "to splatter pig meat all over Chautauqua County."

State police were hoping a new $225,000 reward for help in Phillips' capture would inspire residents to come forward. Six local people have been arrested in recent days and charged with harboring Phillips, including his daughter and former girlfriend.

Outside the state police barracks in Fredonia, more than 100 troopers saluted as the American and state police flags were raised and then lowered to half staff. One trooper sang "Amazing Grace."

Trooper Mark O'Donnell said Longobardo's death did not change the way they viewed their mission to catch Phillips.

"You can't be more determined," O'Donnell said. "We were determined from the day he shot Sean Brown," the trooper wounded in June.