By Marc Parry and Mike Goodwin, Staff writers
David C. Brinkerhoff, Richard Mattson and Joseph A. Longobardo were deemed the best the State Police had to offer, overcoming stiff competition from other officers last year to join an elite team of troopers trained to track down dangerous criminals.
When fugitive Ralph "Bucky" Phillips mounted a bloody rampage in western New York last summer that left Longobardo dead, Brinkerhoff and Mattson joined the hunt.
On Wednesday, the two Mobile Response Team members were shot by another fugitive desperate to get away. Travis Trim, 23, killed Brinkerhoff with a shot to the head and wounded Mattson during a furious gunfight inside a Delaware County home.
"They all know each other very well," said Trooper Maureen Tuffey of Troop G, the Loudonville-based troop out of which Longobardo was assigned before he was shot fatally by Phillips on Aug. 31. "It's a tight-knit unit because of the nature of their work."
The Longobardo connection was one of several aspects of Brinkerhoff's life that came into clearer focus Thursday. The young husband and father of a 7-month-old daughter was grieved from the University at Albany, where he studied, to the Buffalo area, where he grew up.
Brinkerhoff graduated from UAlbany in 2001. Friends and colleagues from his college days remembered Brinkerhoff as a prominent member of the student-run Five-Quad Volunteer Ambulance Corps, which handles emergency medical services.
The Five-Quaders forged a bond. They gathered in dorm rooms on Thursday nights to watch "E.R." They talked about their exploits over meals at Denny's. Once, they talked about them in such gruesome detail they were asked to leave.
One UAlbany colleague, Howard E. Huth III, described Brinkerhoff with affection as "a self-designated hick" -- the one guy who would let Huth play country music in the ambulance. Huth also called him a go-getter, a natural leader, and a pleasure to work with.
"Dave was probably one of the most upstanding men I have ever walked the earth with," said Huth, 30, of Guilderland. "We all know that getting into an emergency services field comes with risks, and we accept that. But you never know how real that's going to be until it hits home and gets personal."
In his junior year, Brinkerhoff came to Doug Kern and asked about becoming a police officer. Kern, who retired last year as deputy chief of the UAlbany police department, had gotten to know the easy-going undergraduate as a member of the Five-Quad board of directors.
Kern briefed him on the ups-and-downs of the law enforcement life. Was he ready, he asked, to work every Christmas for the next 10 years? To miss his kid's baseball game? To work midnights?
Brinkerhoff said he was leaning toward the State Police. He asked Kern for a reference letter. He was enthusiastic.
"I wrote that letter with complete confidence," Kern said, "knowing that they would be getting one of the best."
The family had always been close to law enforcement. Cops hung out constantly in the diner that Brinkerhoff's mother, Karen Howard, had owned in Boston, south of Buffalo. It was down the road from a State Police barracks.
Later, she sold the place and opened up in a shopping plaza in West Seneca outside Buffalo. That's where Tim Clark, who owned an antiques and crafts store there, got to know her. Clark said Brinkerhoff's brother is an Erie County sheriff's deputy.
"When David was accepted to the State Police she was so proud of that," Clark said of his mother. "And she was telling all the merchants in our little plaza there how proud she was and how excited she was that he would be wearing the gray uniform of the State Police."
Marc Parry can be reached at 454-5057 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The funeral for Trooper David C. Brinkerhoff will be held Wednesday at the Bethlehem Lutheran Church. Below is a list of the services. Viewing: 2 to 4 p.m. and 7 to 9 p.m., Monday and Tuesday, W.C. Brady's Sons Funeral Home, Mansion Street, Coxsackie, NY 12051 Funeral: 11 a.m. Wednesday, Bethlehem Lutheran Church, 85 Elm Ave., Delmar, NY 12054 Burial: Immediately following the funeral, at St. Mary's Cemetery, Route 385 just outside of the village of Coxsackie
How to help
At least three funds are accepting donations: The New York State Trooper Foundation established a trust fund for Brinkerhoff's infant daughter. Make donations at any Trustco branch or mail checks to the Isabella Grace Brinkerhoff Trust, Trooper Foundation, 3 Airport Park Blvd., Latham, NY 12110. For information, call 785-1002 or go to http://www.nystrooperfoundation.org .
State Police in Catskill set up an account for the family. Donate through any branch of the Bank of Greene County or make checks to