Albany, NY – A New York State Police (NYSP) trooper has been charged with second-degree murder in the death of an 11-year-old girl who was killed during a pursuit in December of 2020.
New York Attorney General Letitia James announced on Wednesday that NYSP Trooper Christopher Baldner, 43, has been indicted on charges of second-degree murder, second-degree manslaughter, and first-degree reckless endangerment in connection with the Dec. 22, 2020 death of 11-year-old Monica Goods.
The series of events leading to the child’s death began at approximately 11:40 p.m., when Trooper Baldner stopped Monica Goods’ father, Tristan Goods, for speeding down the northbound lane of the New York State Thruway near mile marker 92 in Ulster County, James’ office said.
Tristan Goods, 39, said he was traveling with his wife and his two daughters to visit family members for the Christmas holiday when the traffic stop occurred, the New York Daily News reported.
“He was screaming at me, ‘You were going 100 miles per hour and you shook my car!’” Tristan Goods said of his interaction with Trooper Baldner.
“I said, ‘The tractor trailer in front of me shook your car,’” Tristan Goods told the New York Daily News. “I had my hands on the steering wheel. I didn’t get out of the car. I was no threat him. I asked for a supervisor.”
Tristan Goods said he and Trooper Baldner argued, but did not specify what they argued about.
He claimed the trooper demanded to know if he had “guns or drugs” in his vehicle at one point, the New York Daily News reported.
Tristan Goods further alleged Trooper Baldner said he didn’t “give a s—t” when Tristan Goods’ wife complained about being tired, the New York Daily News reported.
According to Tristan Goods, Trooper Baldner went back to his patrol vehicle for a moment before returning to the family’s car and discharging pepper spray into the vehicle for what Tristan Goods claimed was no apparent reason.
“He didn’t warn us he was going to use pepper spray,” Tristan Goods told the New York Daily News. “He didn’t say ‘Get out of the car’ or ‘You’re under arrest.’”
He said both of his children were hit by the spray, and that he stomped on the accelerator to get away.
“I didn’t know what he was going to do next,” Tristan Goods claimed during his interview with the New York Daily News. “I was like, ‘Holy s–t. This guy is going to kill me now.’”
According to the attorney general’s office, Trooper Baldner “rammed” the family’s vehicle twice during the ensuing pursuit.
“Upon the second strike, the Goods car flipped over several times and came to rest upside down,” James’ office said.
Monica Goods was ejected from the car during the crash and died of her injuries.
It is unclear whether or not Tristan Goods was charged with any offenses as a result of the incident.
No video footage of the stop, pursuit, or crash exists because the NYSP did not issue troopers bodycams until April, months after the crash occurred, the Poughkeepsie Journal reported.
The NYSP has declined to comment about the case due to an internal investigation and the ongoing criminal proceedings, according to the New York Daily News.
“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,” NYSP spokesperson William Duffy told the paper in June.
New York State Troopers Police Benevolent Association President Thomas Mungeer offered his condolences to Monica Goods’ family in a statement released Wednesday, WABC reported.
“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,” Mungeer noted.
Attorney Sanford Rubenstein told WABC the grand jury also heard testimony about prior pursuits involving Trooper Baldner.
“There were two prior events in which he rammed cars from behind, which became evidence before this grand jury,” Rubenstein said. “Clearly this state trooper never should’ve been on duty at the time this happened. Apparently, there was a pattern here of him using this technique to ram cars.”
James’ office said Trooper Baldner was arraigned on Wednesday and remanded to the custody of the sheriff.
He will make a bail application, and a hearing on that matter has been scheduled for Nov. 4, according to the attorney general.
“Trooper Baldner surrendered this morning and was immediately suspended without pay,” the NYSP told the New York Post on Wednesday. “The State Police investigated this matter and cooperated with the AG’s office and will continue to do so.”
“As with every State Police investigation, our mission is to determine facts and ensure that justice is served, even when it involves one of our own members,” the agency noted. “Accountability is critically important to our agency.”
Trooper Baldner faces a maximum of life in prison if convicted of the second-degree murder charge.
“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 on Wednesday. “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.”
Monica Goods’ mother, Michelle Surrency, told the New York Daily News she plans to file a lawsuit against the state over her daughter’s death.
“This is an important step in the march for justice for the wrongful death of a beautiful young girl and the psychological injuries sustained by her sister,” Surrency’s attorney, Rubenstein, said of the charges, according to the Daily Mail.