A criminal probe has been launched against the New York State Police Department after a pursuit between a trooper and family left a child dead last December. Tristin Goods spoke out about the confrontation with Trooper Christopher Baldner for the first time on Sunday (June 20) with the New York Daily News.
Goods, who is Black, was traveling with his wife April and two daughters, 11-year-old Monica and 12-year-old Tristina, on I-87 upstate three days before Christmas when Baldner pulled them over.
“He was screaming at me, ‘You were going 100 miles per hour and you shook my car!’” Goods recalled to the Daily News.
“I said, ‘The tractor-trailer in front of me shook your car,’” he continued. “I had my hands on the steering wheel. I didn’t get out of the car. I was no threat to him. I asked for a supervisor.”
Goods said the trooper asked if there were any “guns or drugs” in the car.
“My wife said she was tired and he said, ‘I don’t give a shit if you’re tired,’” he recounted.
The 39-year-old said Baldner returned to his police cruiser and when he came back to the car he flooded the vehicle with pepper spray. Goods added that the trooper was well aware that his two young daughters were in the car.
“He didn’t warn us he was going to use pepper spray,” Goods recalled. “He didn’t say, ‘Get out of the car’ or, ‘You’re under arrest.’”
Fearing for his family’s safety, Goods says he instinctively drove away.
“I didn’t know what he was going to do next,” he explained. “I was like, ‘Holy shit. This guy is going to kill me now.’”
Daily News reports that Baldner pursued the family and rammed the back of their car with his cruiser. Eight seconds later, he hit the back of their car a second time. It was then that the Goods’ SUV hit a guardrail and flipped over, ejecting Monica outside of the vehicle. The 11-year-old reportedly died at the scene.
“We are confident that our clients’ accounts of what happened are consistent with the scientific evidence and the forensic evidence from the scene,” Goods’ lawyer, Joseph O’Connor, told the outlet.
After the crash, Goods attempted to get out of the car to find his daughter. However, he says Baldner pulled a gun on him and once again asked if there were any drugs or guns in the car. Goods also claimed the trooper later interviewed Tristina for hours without a parent present.
“It is just so hurtful. The guy was crazy,” he said. “It’s illegal what he did.”
“This should have been a traffic ticket,” O’Connor added.
New York State Attorney General Letitia James is conducting a criminal investigation into the department and Baldner. According to William Duffy, a spokesman for the state police, the trooper remains employed on desk duty.
“While we understand the desire for answers to the many questions surrounding this incident, we can’t address the details until these investigations are complete,” Duffy said.