Trooper Holford honored for response to Pa. toll plaza shooting
David Fogal, a witness to the Pennsylvania Turnpike shooting Sunday morning, shares what he saw happen from a gas station near the scene. Ashley Books – Public Opinion
Trooper Kevin Holford of Troop T, Newville, is 2016 Troop of the Year.,(Photo: Courtesy)
HERSHEY — Trooper Kevin Holford of Troop T, Newville, was honored as the Pennsylvania State Police Trooper of the Year for his actions on March 20, 2016, during an attempted robbery at the Fort Littleton turnpike toll plaza. Holford s “quick and decisive actions” prevented further loss of life and injury, according to Pennsylvania State Police Commissioner Tyree C. Blocker, who presented the award during a ceremony Friday at the State Police Academy in Hershey. Holford was among the first troopers to arrive at the scene in Fulton County. Clarence Briggs, a heavily armed retired state trooper, had shot and killed two Pennsylvania Turnpike employees while trying to rob an armored car. Holford confronted Briggs. When Briggs began to ready his weapon again, Holford shot and killed him.
Briggs, deep in debt, had tried to take the turnpike collections. He shot and killed Danny Crouse, 55, who had been working three months for the turnpike, and the security guard, Ronald Heist, a 71-year-old retired York City policeman working for York’s Schaad Detective Agency. Holford and Trooper Gregory Strayer both received the commissioner s letter of commendation for their actions on the day of the attempted robbery.
“Trooper Holford s courageous actions no doubt prevented further loss of life and injury.” — Nominating letter for Trooper of the Year award. See entire letter below.
Blocker honored other troopers at the annual ceremony on Friday. Several troopers were recognized for their roles following the fatal shooting of 23-year-old Trooper Landon Weaver on Dec. 30 in Juniata Township, Huntingdon County. Weaver was investigating a protection from abuse violation. Troopers shot the suspect, 32-year-old Jason Robison, the next morning at Robison s home.
In recognition of their actions on Dec. 30, Blocker presented Police Commendation Medals to Sgt. Timothy Cummings of Troop G, McConnellsburg; Cpl. Michael Davis of Troop G, Huntingdon; Cpl. Jared Hartsock of Troop G, Lewistown; Trooper Joseph Fay of Troop G, Huntingdon; and Trooper Ryan Speece of Troop G, Huntingdon. They were the first to arrive at the home where Weaver was shot. They developed and executed a plan to retrieve Weaver from the home and transport him to an ambulance. In recognition for their actions on Dec. 31 to bring Trooper Weaver s killer to justice, Blocker gave letters of commendation to Sgt. Zigmund Jendrzejewski, Cpl. Frederick Chadwick, Cpl. Cory Despot, Cpl. Warren Rhyner, Trooper Gregory Bacher Jr., Trooper Joseph Dunsmore, Trooper Michael Ehgartner, Trooper Adam Kline, Trooper Dana Martini, Trooper William Wagner, Trooper Timothy Wesesky, and Trooper Christopher Wilson. Blocker also presented the department s Medal of Honor to Trooper Jonathan Bailey of Troop N, Fern Ridge, who risked his life to rescue a 69-year-old woman trapped inside a burning home. Bailey was on patrol on July 27 when he heard a dispatch for a residential fire in Penn Forest Township, Carbon County. He arrived before fire and rescue crews. Fighting the thick, black smoke, Bailey went in the home several times before finding the woman and helping her to safety. He was treated at a local hospital for smoke inhalation and returned to finish his shift.
Today is a celebration of the exemplary actions and significant achievements of some very special individuals, Blocker said. The award recipients truly exemplify the commitment to service that is the cornerstone of the Pennsylvania State Police and it is my privilege to recognize their accomplishments.
The State Police Purple Heart was presented to Trooper Patrick Casey of Troop K, Philadelphia. At the end of a vehicle chase on Nov. 25, 2015, a suspect shot Casey in the left shoulder. The injured Casey was able to return fire and seek cover. Troopers Timothy Jeter and William Evans, III, received letters of commendation for their actions during the pursuit and for the measures taken to ensure Trooper Casey received prompt medical attention for his injuries. Harry Royer was named Liquor Enforcement Officer of the Year for his 30 years of dedicated service to the Bureau of Liquor Control Enforcement. He was recognized as an exemplary officer and a valuable resource, willing to share his knowledge and experience. Tamara Mason of Troop C, Kane, received the Police Communications Officer of the Year Award. A life-long resident of McKean County, Mason played a key role in the successful outcome in the search for a missing, suicidal woman.
Marcy Benner, a clerk typist II at Troop F, Milton, was recognized as Employee of the Year. A 20-year employee, Brenner has been involved with the Susquehanna Valley Camp Cadet program since its inception, volunteering her time at fundraisers that support the camp. Passionate about dogs, she also donates time to several animal welfare organizations.
Also receiving Commissioner s Letters of Commendation were:
- Cpl. Frank Konek, Jr., Trooper Justin Duval and Trooper Frederick Gregg, for their investigation into one of the largest drug trafficking organizations in southwestern Pennsylvania that resulted in several arrests and the seizure of several kilograms of heroin and cocaine, $1.5 million in cash, 34 firearms and several vehicles.
- Trooper Javier Garcia for his two-year investigation into an international drug trafficking organization.
The commissioner s Area Command Significant Achievement Awards went to:
- Troops C, D, and E and the Bureau of Criminal Investigation who identified, investigated and stopped a large-scale commercial burglary ring that operated throughout western Pennsylvania.
- The Troop G Major Case Team, who investigated the death of Ronald Bettis. Their efforts led to the full confessions of those responsible for his death, which could have been dismissed as a suicide.
- Troop F, Mountoursville, and Troop P, Wyoming, solved the homicide of Michelle Inch. Faced with the overwhelming evidence against him, the suspect pleaded guilty and was sentenced to life in prison.
- Troop L, Reading, for investigating a methamphetamine trafficking organization in Schuylkill County. Thirteen search warrants were executed, leading to the seizure of 9.25 pounds of methamphetamine, 72 firearms, nine pipe bombs, and more than $100,000 in cash.
Trooper of the Year nomination
The letter nominating Trooper Kevin Holford as Trooper of the Year reads as follows:
“On March 20, 2016, at approximately 0650 hours, Clarence L. Briggs, confronted two on-duty Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission employees, Martha Bertstresser and Daniel Crouse, while armed with a handgun and wearing a ski mask. During the commission of the robbery, Briggs forced them to enter the interchange building and attempted to restrain them by tying their hands behind their backs. Crouse was able to free himself from the restraints and fought with Briggs while Berkstresser ran from the building to call for help. Briggs, who was initially disarmed by Crouse, was able to obtain a second weapon from his vehicle.
“Meanwhile, a security van arrived to collect the toll receipts. The van, operated by Michael O Keefe, a Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission employee, and accompanied by Security Officer Ronald Heist, were informed of the robbery in progress. Heist exited the van and went around the building, looking for Briggs. Within seconds, Heist was shot and killed by Briggs. The gunfire drew the attention of Crouse, who then ran toward the shots, only to be also murdered by Briggs. With Heist and Crouse dead, Briggs then turned his attention to the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission van, which was still occupied by O Keefe. Briggs opened fire on the van as O Keefe jumped out and ran for cover. At this time, Trooper Kevin Holford, Troop T, Everett, arrived at the scene in a marked patrol unit and immediately heard gunshots from what he perceived to be a rifle and observed both Heist and Crouse lying outside the interchange building, deceased.
“Trooper Holford tactically positioned his patrol unit, exited the vehicle with his patrol rifle and took a position of cover and concealment. As he scanned the area, he heard two additional shots fired from Brigg s location, towards another responding Trooper. While Trooper Holford could not see Briggs when the shots were fired, there was no doubt they came from Brigg s location. Trooper Holford repositioned himself and observed Briggs, armed with an assault rifle, off-loading money from the van to the trunk of his car. It was clear to Trooper Holford that Briggs posed a clear threat to himself and responding Troopers. Therefore, he challenged Briggs, yelling State Police , but Briggs ignored him and continued to transfer the money. At this point, Trooper Holford engaged Briggs, by firing at him with his patrol rifle.
“While Briggs was not hit, it diverted his attention and away from other responders and towards Trooper Holford. Then as Briggs came around the van with the rifle raised up to a low ready position, Trooper Holford fired several more shots, fatally wounding Briggs. Trooper Holford s courageous actions no doubt prevented further loss of life and injury.”
Jim Hook, 717-262-4759
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