By KAREN MATTHEWS Associated Press
NEW YORK (AP) — A New York state trooper was charged with murder Wednesday in the death of an 11-year-old girl by ramming his patrol vehicle into her family’s vehicle in December, the state’s attorney general announced.
Trooper Christopher Baldner was indicted on charges of murder, manslaughter and reckless endangerment in the death of Monica Goods, whose family was traveling on the New York State Thruway on Dec. 22, 2020, when Baldner stopped them for speeding.
According to prosecutors from the office of Attorney General Letitia James, who has jurisdiction over deaths caused by police officers, Monica’s father, Tristan Goods, was driving north on Interstate 87 in Ulster County when Baldner stopped his SUV for speeding.
Baldner sprayed pepper spray into the vehicle during the stop, and Goods drove off, prosecutors said. Baldner pursued the SUV and rammed his police vehicle into the other vehicle twice, the prosecutors said. After the second strike, the SUV flipped over several times and came to rest upside down, prosecutors said.
Monica was ejected from the vehicle and died.
“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. “While nothing will bring Monica back, we must hold law enforcement to the highest standards, which is why my office is committed to seeking justice in this case.”
Authorities say Baldner similarly rammed his police vehicle into other cars on the Thruway north of New York City on two previous occasions in 2017 and 2019.
Wednesday’s indictment includes the 2019 incident and alleges that Baldner “endangered the lives of three passengers” in the car he rammed.
Baldner was arraigned in Ulster County Court and ordered held without bail. A bail hearing is scheduled for Nov. 4. Voicemail and email messages seeking comment were left with his attorney.
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.
Thomas Mungeer, the president of the state troopers’ Police Benevolent Association, said in a statement that the union sends its condolences to the family of the child who died.
“We respect the legal process and are preparing for the next step, which will be to provide legal representation to the involved Trooper, a right afforded to every American citizen tried by a jury of peers,” the union head said. “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.”