|BIG FLATS, N.Y. -- A New York state trooper who was shot and killed in a gun battle with two bank robbers managed to wound both suspects and they were later captured, state police said.
Trooper Andrew Sperr, 33, a 10-year veteran, came upon the men about an hour after a midday bank robbery Wednesday in the western New York hamlet of Big Flats, Major Steven White said. When he approached their truck a few miles from here, they opened fire and Sperr managed to shoot both of them before dying of multiple gunshot wounds, White said.
Sperr, a Rochester native and the youngest of 11 children, "did his job today -- it cost him his life but he prevented these people from successfully getting away with a bank robbery," White said at a long-awaited news conference shortly before midnight.
At least one other suspect was being hunted Thursday and was believed to be driving a 1997-model Ford Taurus with New York license plates, police said.
Sperr was the 23rd trooper felled by gunfire since the New York State Police was formed in 1917. "Our prayers are with his family," Gov. George Pataki said.
The suspects, Anthony Horton, 33, of Elmira, and Brian Adams, 45, of nearby Breesport, were in satisfactory condition at hospitals. Each was charged with first-degree murder and other charges were pending, White said.
Horton entered the Chemung Canal Trust Co. in Big Flats, handed over a note demanding money and left with about $1,900, White said. He then fled in a vehicle along with at least one other man, and witnesses gave police partial descriptions, White said.
Sperr was alone when he drove up to a pickup stopped on a road about five miles from the village, and a gun fight erupted. Although he was wearing a protective vest, he was hit in the torso and killed, White said.
Afterward, Horton retreated to a nearby hotel and Adams showed up at an Elmira hospital with a gunshot wound, White said. Horton turned himself in when police arrived at the hotel. He had four bullet wounds but none were life-threatening, White said.
Sperr, who spent two tours in New Orleans helping victims of Hurricane Katrina, was found after passers-by spotted his patrol car with its lights flashing. "How long it had been there, we're not exactly sure," White said.
The discovery prompted authorities to lock down all schools in the Horseheads and Elmira Heights school district. Parents were told to pick up their children and sign them out at the end of the school day.
The slaying in this town of 7,200 people midway between Corning and Elmira occurred two days after a Town of New Hartford police officer near Utica was shot and killed while chasing a robbery suspect.
"It's a reminder of the risk that law enforcement officers all over America have to accept as a necessary part of their employment," White said, fighting back tears.
The last state trooper killed in the line of duty was Lawrence Gleason, who was shot in the back in February 2002 by a suicidal gunman in the Adirondack hamlet of Crown Point.
In all, 112 state troopers have been killed on duty since the New York State Police was founded, six while on military service in World War II.