Police are overly fond of the practice they bloodlessly call the “precision immobilization technique,” which in layperson’s terms means ramming into a moving vehicle they want to stop. It is often done for something as simple as victimless traffic law enforcement.
This week, New York state trooper Christopher Baldner was charged with second-degree murder for his overzealous use of this technique on a vehicle evading his attempt to give the driver a speeding ticket. The second time he rammed the SUV in question from behind, he flipped it upside down over a guardrail and killed an 11-year-old girl, Monica Goods, who was a passenger in the vehicle (along with her mother and her 12-year-old sister).
Baldner had initially pulled over the driver, Monica’s father Tristin Goods, on Interstate 87 in Ulster County on December 22, 2020, for allegedly speeding while they were on their way to visit family for Christmas.
In an interview with the New York Daily News back in June, Goods described his memory of the interaction prior to his car being rammed:
“He was screaming at me, ‘You were going 100 miles per hour and you shook my car!’ Goods recalled.
“I said ‘The tractor trailer in front of me shook your car.’ I had my hands on the steering wheel. I didn’t get out of the car. I was no threat him,” Goods said. “I asked for a supervisor.”
The two argued — with the trooper demanding to know if there were “guns or drugs” in the car, Goods recounted.
“My wife said she was tired, and he said, ‘I don’t give a s–t if you’re tired,'” Good [sic] recalled.
The trooper returned to his cruiser — and when he returned, he flooded Goods’ SUV with pepper spray. Goods said the trooper was well aware there were young girls in the car when he sprayed.
“He didn’t warn us he was going to use pepper spray,” Goods said. “He didn’t say ‘Get out of the car’ or ‘You’re under arrest.'”
Goods said his daughters were crying, and he feared for his family’s safety. Instinctively, he said, he drove off.
“I didn’t know what he was going to do next,” Goods said. “I was like, ‘Holy s–t. This guy is going to kill me now.'”
Making chase after Goods as he tried to drive away, Baldner hit him twice and flipped the SUV.
Baldner had rammed into moving cars with passengers at least twice previously, though he had not previously murdered anyone doing so. His charges, as reported by the local NBC affiliate, “include second-degree murder, second-degree manslaughter and first-degree reckless endangerment.”
Baldner has a bail hearing on November 4, and faces a potential maximum of 25 years to life for the second-degree murder charge. Baldner has also been suspended from his job without pay. A state police spokesman told the Daily Freeman he could not recall in “recent times” a state trooper being indicted for murder.
Monica’s mother Michelle Surrency told the Chicago Defender, “She could make anybody laugh, it doesn’t matter how you felt and it hurts that we don’t have that no more….We were robbed and it’s not fair. It’s not fair.”
For its part, Baldner’s union, the Police Benevolent Association, says in a statement reported by Associated Press that “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.”