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Archive for Monday, September 4, 2006

Trooper dies of injuries in ambush

September 4, 2006

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— One of two troopers ambushed while searching for an escaped convict died Sunday of his injuries.

Joseph Longobardo, shot in the leg while on a stakeout for Ralph "Bucky" Phillips, died at a Buffalo hospital with his wife and parents at his side, State Police Supt. Wayne Bennett said. The other wounded officer, Donald Baker Jr., remained in critical condition in a medically induced coma, police said.

Investigators believe Phillips has had help avoiding capture for the last five months, even after he was suspected of wounding a trooper in June. Some in rural western New York had viewed the manhunt with amusement, but that changed after Thursday's shootings.

"There has been a marked difference in the cooperation that we are receiving," Bennett said.

Phillips, 44, has been on the run since April, when he used a can opener to cut an opening in the kitchen ceiling of an Erie County jail and escaped through the roof.

Since then, he has been suspected in the June shooting of Trooper Sean Brown near Elmira in southern New York, and police said he has survived on the run by stealing about 15 vehicles and breaking into hunting camps and a gun shop.

Longobardo, 32, and Baker, 38, were ambushed by a sniper in the woods outside the home of Phillips' former girlfriend. Baker was shot in the back.

One trooper managed to return fire, but police did not say whether the sniper, who fired from less than 100 yards away in the woods, was hit.

Longobardo's leg had been amputated, and he never regained consciousness after being shot.

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