CHENANGO BRIDGE, N.Y. -- A New York State trooper died Thursday after being hit by a passing vehicle. He was conducting a traffic stop on Interstate 81 in Broome County.
Authorities report that Trooper Christopher Skinner was outside his marked State Police car conducting a vehicle and traffic stop on I-81 north of exit 6, between Chenango Bridge and Castle Creek, Broome County, when he was struck by a passing vehicle. He was killed instantly.
The driver of the vehicle continued on a short distance before stopping and running into nearby woods. He was taken into custody shortly after 1 p.m. following a search. He was not wearing any clothes when he was found.
Officials said Almond Upton, 60, of Melrose in Putnam County was charged with one count of First Degree Murder and was arraigned in Town of Chenango Court.
Authorities said it did not appear that he was drunk or high on drugs, and he made verbal admissions to police that he intentionally hit the trooper. According to police, Upton stated he spotted Trooper Skinner conducting a traffic stop, traveled from the passing to the driving lane and struck Skinner and sideswiped the car Skinner had stopped.
"It doesn't appear to us he was either intoxicated or under the influence of drugs," NYSP Superintendent Joseph D'Amico said. "Not sure what his mental state was at the time of the accident. He did make admissions that he saw the trooper and intentionally struck him."
Prior to striking the trooper, Upton struck two other vehicles on I-81 while traveling at a high rate of speed. One driver suffered minor injuries and was treated at Wilson Hospital.
Upton was sent to the Broome County Jail with no bail.
"Stunning is really the only term I can use," Broome County District Attorney Gerald Mollen said. "The charge of murder in the first degree is alleged in a felony complaint. It's the very first step on a class 'S'."
Trooper Skinner was last assigned to the Traffic Incident Management Unit, Troop C, in Delaware County, and was a 13-year veteran of the New York State Police. He worked in Troops C, E and G. He was assigned to the TIM detail in June 2008.
Fellow officers said Skinner was dedicated and hard working.
"Trooper Skinner was the kind of trooper you really hope to get," Troop Commander Major Donald Faughnan said. "He was a dedicated worker. He worked very hard and took his job very seriously. He's surely going to be missed."
Trooper Skinner is from Binghamton, N.Y. and is survived by his mother, Sharyn, brother, Shawn, fiancé, Surrena, and two children, 15-year-old Kyle and 12-year-old Erin. He was 42 years old.
Police continue to investigate the accident. They said they are going to track Upton's movements prior to the crash and talk to anyone who has some kind of connection to him.
First Coast News spoke to some people who know Upton in his hometown like Robin Chiappinni, who has run a gas station in the middle of town for 30 years.
"He comes in and buys LP from us every now and then," Chiappinni said. "Seemed to be alright, didn't catch my attention as being a little crazy but apparently he is."
State Police would like to thank the Broome County Sheriff's Office, U.S. Marshal Service, Castle Creek Fire Department, and other federal and local first responders for their assistance.
"It is with a heavy heart that we learn of the death of Trooper Christopher Skinner, who died in the line of duty earlier today while conducting a traffic stop on I-81. Trooper Skinner selflessly dedicated 13 years of his life to the New York State Police, and his actions have impacted the lives of many. His commitment to the people of this State is commendable and will no doubt be remembered for years to come. On behalf of all New Yorkers, I offer my condolences to his friends and family, and express my deepest gratitude for Trooper Skinner's service," Governor Andrew Cuomo said in a statement.