|From the Times Union.com:
A trooper, a father, a hero
Joseph Longobardo of Ballston Spa, 32, dies after being
shot, leaving wife and 1-year-old son; partner listed as serious
First published: Monday, September 4, 2006
FREDONIA -- State Trooper Joseph Longobardo, a 32-year-old Middle Grove
resident, died Sunday afternoon, almost three days after he was ambushed in the
woods of western New York and shot in the leg.
At 3:35 p.m., just minutes after the trooper's father, Tony Longobardo,
returned from a candlelight vigil held in honor of the wounded officer and
another injured trooper, Joseph Longobardo died in Buffalo's Erie County Medical
Longobardo, whose leg was amputated Saturday afternoon, died in a heavily
medicated state, said State Police Superintendent Wayne Bennett. He was never
able to communicate with family or police after the shooting. He and his wife,
Teri Longobardo, were due to celebrate a wedding anniversary Thursday, and they
have a 1-year-old son, Louis.
Longobardo was standing watch around 6 p.m. Thursday in Pomfret near Fredonia
with Trooper Donald Baker Jr., a 38-year-old Clifton Park resident and fellow
Mobile Response Team member, when 11 shots were fired at them with a
Baker was shot in the abdomen. He was in serious condition Sunday night at
Hamot Hospital in Erie, Pa., where he's undergone three surgeries. Both men are
eight-year veterans of the State Police with the Loudonville-based Troop G.
Police believe the shooter was Ralph "Bucky" Phillips, a career criminal who
escaped from Erie County jail in April and allegedly shot another state trooper
in June. The ambush of Longobardo and Baker occurred in the woods behind the log
cabin of Phillips' ex-girlfriend Kasey Crowe in Chautauqua County.
Crowe, her daughter with Phillips, and the daughter's boyfriend were among
six people arrested for allegedly giving shelter, clothing and food to Phillips.
Authorities said they were aware, based on witness interviews, that Phillips
made threats against police after the Aug. 21 arrest of the three.
After the ambush, one of the wounded officers fired one shot at the attacker,
but State Police Maj. Michael Manning said there was no evidence the gunman was
Police have been combing the woods of Chautauqua County and searching hunting
camps to find Phillips, who's left a trail of break-ins not only in New York,
but in Pennsylvania and other states since he broke out of jail in April using a
can opener. They continued the search Sunday, with a rotation of 280 officers
halting cars at 22 checkpoints.
Several officers from Loudonville's Troop G -- mostly SWAT team members --
joined the manhunt this weekend, Bennett said. Many of them went back to work
Sunday night after hearing at a 7 p.m. briefing that their colleague had died.
Bennett said any of the troopers can step out of the search rotation if they
don't feel up to working.
The death has affected the officers deeply, he said, especially the members
of the MRT special weapons and tactics team, who removed team members Longobardo
and Baker from the woods after the shooting.
"It's a wake-up call, I'm not going to tell you it's not," Bennett said.
"Things changed between 3:34 p.m. and 3:36 p.m. today." Earlier in the day about
300 people joined Tony Longobardo, at the vigil for the officers at the Wesleyan
Church of Hamburg. Law enforcement officials and politicians lauded the work of
the two troopers and talked about the special bond between police officers as
Joseph Longobardo spent his last few hours alive in the Trauma Intensive Care
Unit of ECMC 12 miles away. "As someone has said, it's a brotherhood. If
something happens down in Albany, we're still going to support them here," said
Suzi Smith, the organizer of the event and the widow of a state trooper, who
died after contracting hepatitis during a drug arrest.
Tony Longobardo gave no comment to the mob of reporters who followed him
toward the church exit after the service. Flanked by police officers, he stopped
repeatedly for hugs and good wishes from total strangers. He was driven away in
a State Police car just after 3 p.m.
Bennett said Longobardo was with his wife, parents and other family when he
died. He didn't know when the Longobardos would return to the Capital Region.
Joseph Longobardo's killing, Bennett said, is classified as aggravated murder
of a police officer, but police need more evidence to charge Phillips with the
crime. If Phillips is apprehended, Bennett said, he will be charged with
attempted murder for allegedly shooting state Trooper Sean Brown on June. 10 in
Chemung County. Brown, who was shot approaching a car Phillips was driving
because it was parked on a roadside, recovered from his injuries.
The last confirmed sighting of Phillips was Aug. 27 in Chautauqua County.
Police are searching three southwestern New York counties, but Bennett said he's
sure Phillips is in Chautauqua County, where he has the support of family and
friends. Bennett, who said the manhunt for Phillips is the longest and most
complicated he's witnessed in 38 years with the state, wants Phillips to know
Longobardo is dead.
"I want him to be fully aware that the ante was (pushed) up again because of
something he did," Bennett said. "Yeah, I want him to be aware of it."
Police are offering a $225,000 reward for tips leading to Phillips arrest.
Several Phillips sightings were reported Sunday, but Bennett said they were all
cases of misidentification. Keith Greenberg, a producer for Geraldo Rivera's
syndicated show, "Geraldo At Large," said he was mistaken for Phillips early
Sunday evening at the Fredonia Wal-Mart. He's in town covering the manhunt.
Greenberg, a 47-year-old Brooklyn man with long hair and a mustache similar
to Phillips', went to the Wal-Mart because he received a tip one of Phillips'
relatives worked there. When he asked for the relative, Wal-Mart employees
called police. Greenberg met up with them in the parking lot, where he was
running to his van for a camera to film police vehicles tearing toward him.
After about five minutes, Greenberg said, police were convinced he wasn't
"It all ended with a handshake," he said.
Joseph Longobardo, a graduate of Amsterdam High School and the College of
Saint Rose, spent most of his State Police career in Fonda, but recently was
assigned to the Wilton barracks. He was promoted to technical sergeant last
year. Bennett said he'd been part of the Phillips manhunt on and off, but didn't
know when he first reported for duty in Chautauqua County. Both he and Baker
have worked with rookie troopers teaching defensive tactics at the State Police
Academy. Longobardo was also a field training officer.
Longobardo was part of a 70-trooper contingent that tracked a Mohawk Valley
man wanted for the stabbing murder of his mother in 2001. According to the 2001
Annual Report of the State Police, Longobardo chased and helped apprehend the
suspect after a chase in Fonda.
Longobardo became a Marine in 1992, and five years later joined the New York
Air National Guard's 109th Security Forces Squadron based in Scotia, Master Sgt.
Timothy Kane said.
In the Guard, Longobardo provided security for air base defense missions and
helped train and evaluate young soldiers, Kane said. He was a member of the
Stratton Air Base Ravens team, which goes on classified missions, he said.
Just after 8 p.m., dozens of troopers, dressed either in their trademark gray
uniforms or camouflage, silently lined up outside the barracks on Route 60
facing two bare flagpoles. Four officers raised the state flag and the American
flag and lowered them to half-staff.
With their heads bowed, the group said goodbye to Longobardo with the moon
shining overhead and one officer singing Amazing Grace.
Troop G headquarters in Loudonville was mostly dark Sunday night. Outside
beneath the flag pole stood a memorial with 15 names of troopers from Troop G
killed in the line of duty.
At the Clifton Park barracks, the U.S. flag and state flag had been lowered,
backlit by two floodlights. In the parking lot, a trooper just shook his head
and said, "Anytime one of our brother or our sister troopers passes away, it's a
Gov. George Pataki also issued a statement regarding Longobardo's death.
"Trooper Longobardo's death is a painful reminder of the great risks out
state troopers face each and every day," he said.
Locally, the Law Dogs Law Enforcement Motorcycle Club announced that it will
hold a benefit ride Saturday. Sept. 9, in Troy to help raise money for the
families of Baker and Longobardo.
Kate Perry can be reached at 454-5092 or firstname.lastname@example.org.