A New York State Police trooper is facing second-degree murder charges for allegedly ramming a family during a Dec. 2020 pursuit, flipping their car and killing an 11-year-old Brooklyn girl.
Attorney General Letitia James announced the indictment of trooper Christopher Baldner by an Ulster County grand jury on Wednesday. Baldner also faces manslaughter and multiple reckless endangerment charges. The union that represents him said it would fight the charges.
Tristan Goods was driving his wife and two daughters to visit relatives before Christmas when the trooper stopped him on I-87 for speeding in the town of Ulster, about 95 miles north of New York City. Baldner sprayed pepper spray into the vehicle during the stop, prosecutors said, but it was not clear what caused him to do so.
State police said the father then drove off, resulting in a chase. Baldner allegedly struck the Goods’ SUV from behind twice before it hit a guardrail and flipped. The SUV flipped over several times and came to rest upside down, prosecutors said.
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Tristan Goods' daughter, Monica, was ejected from the SUV and pronounced dead at the scene. Her 12-year-old sister was seriously injured.
"She can make anybody laugh, doesn't matter how you feel, and it's sad and it hurts that we don't have that no more. We were robbed. And it's not fair," said Monica's mother, Michelle Surrency. "I just want people to know the fight isn't over. This is just the beginning. You know, I didn't lose one child that day, I lost two because Christina will never be the same."
Gov. Kathy Hochul had said last week that Baldner could faces charges in Goods' death and in previous ramming incidents as well.
Five of the eight counts against him relate to Goods' death and the remaining three are tied to an alleged ramming from Sept. 2019.
“Police officers are entrusted to protect and serve, but Trooper Baldner allegedly violated that trust when he used his car as a deadly weapon and killed a young girl,” James said in a statement. The attorney general has jurisdiction over deaths caused by police officers.
But the New York State Troopers Police Benevolent Association, while offering condolences to Goods' family, said the case was not so simple.
"As this case makes its way through the legal system, we look forward to a review and public release of the facts, including the motorist’s reckless actions that started this chain of events," union President Thomas Mungeer said in a statement.
Officials with the state police said Baldner surrendered Wednesday morning and was suspended from the department without pay. The department is cooperating with the attorney general's office in the investigation, they said.
"Clearly this state trooper should've never been on duty at the time of this, clearly there's a pattern here," said Sanford Rubenstein, who is representing the family.