NY State Troop “C” and its exciting history

A program by Louis Palombo
Additional Panel Members: Tom Kelly and Charles McKilligan

October 14, 2023

The State Police in Sidney

—By Mark Simonson. May 7, 2021

One thing you could say with confidence in May 1921 was that Sidney became a much safer town when it came to crime. The decision was arrived at that the barracks of the State troopers, authorized by the Legislature, were to be located in Sidney.

Of the 58 men comprising the Sidney Troop, a majority are married men. All of them are well paid by the state. They are men of good moral character and were selected […] from 1,500 applicants. They are young men, of rugged physique and will be well trained for their duties, which require a good level head and prompt action, men like Lieutenant Daniel E. Fox.

The Hillcrest location on West Main Street has been selected by Major Chandler as the best available site in Sidney, which is where Sidney High School is now found. The barracks was built at a cost of nearly $75,000.

“In the Central Hotel barn, ample space has been allotted for the mounts and they’ll be a busy bunch there for some months,” while the barracks was under construction. “The troopers have transformed the barn floors into neat spacious stalls.” The hotel itself was the temporary barracks.

That was just the beginning, as the July 2 Record told its readers, “Crooks and irregulars in this southern tier of the State are on the anxious seat these days and already Troop C begins to troop them in. Railroad tramps, moonshiners, disorderly dens, illicit, whiskeyites begin to feel the effects of the force stationed at Sidney and crepe hangs out of the door of some dens.”

In December 1950, it was announced that Troop C would move its barracks to a site on state Route 7 to the current headquarters, between Sidney and Unadilla. The old barracks had become obsolete and badly in need of repairs. The new building was constructed at the cost of nearly $1 million, and was occupied near the end of 1953.


The Rough Riders

Perhaps the most important thing that will make Troop C live in memories of the local people is the trick riding team, appropriately named the Rough Riders. Soon after Troop C came to Sidney, Captain Fox bought 25 spotted horses from the state of Montana. Burt Mattox, a cowboy, became a trooper and directed the training of the horses.

All of the trick riding team were pintos. Each horse weighed approximately 1,000 pounds. And were 14 to 16 hands tall (56” to 64”). At the State Fair in Syracuse in 1921, after only being in existence for four months, Troop C’s riding team won six prizes including first prize in cavalry remounts by defeating General Pershing’s best mount. They also frequently appeared in Madison Square Garden. They were invited to London England for a show but the distance was too great.


Troop C in photos

Troop C began in 1921. Three sites were considered for the troopers’ barracks – the fairgrounds, Riverside Park and West Main Street. The immediate need of room and board for 58 men and their horses was not anticipated. Arrangements were made for rooms and use of the barn at the Central Hotel. The new barracks was dedicated and celebrated on the 4th of July, 1922.

The worst way to meet the President

Franklin Delano Roosevelt was a friend of Captain Fox. When FDR was the governor of NY State, he often visited Troop C. Naturally everything had to be spick and span. The mopping of the hall was left until last so it would be extra clean when FDR walked in. A trooper was busily mopping the hall when he was told to hurry up because FDR’s car was coming up the driveway. He had just started to squeeze out the mop in the pail when the door opened and FDR walked in. The poor trooper became so flustered that he knocked the pail over and the dirty mop water went all over FDR’s shoes.

Wall of Honor

The Wall of Honor, located in the New York State Police Academy in Albany, New York, honors troopers who have died in service to the residents of New York State.

Corporal Harold C. Mattice was killed on April 28, 1923, at the age of 33, while attempting to arrest a subject for arson. After investigating a barn fire in Morris, Corporal Mattice and his partner went to a residence and to search for the suspect. The subject, out on bail for rape, was armed with a shotgun and a rifle when he shot and killed Corporal Mattice in the attic of the house. Corporal Mattice joined the Division of State Police at Sidney in December of 1917, later resigned, and reenlisted as a blacksmith on November 1, 1922.

Trooper Simpson died on December 1, 1927, at the age of 31, of injuries from a motor vehicle accident. At the time of the accident, Trooper Simpson was driving along South Main Street in the village of Bainbridge. As he passed through the intersection of South Main and West Main, he was hit by another vehicle, causing his car to overturn. The vehicle that struck him had no brakes, which was the cause of the accident. Trooper Simpson joined the Division March 1, 1927 at Troop C Sidney, and was stationed at Bainbridge at the time of his death.

On March 3, 1937, Sergeant John H. Lockhart died of a cerebral hemorrhage, five days after injuring his head from a slip and fall accident. On February 26, 1937, Sergeant Lockhart, 43, was entering his troop car at SP Highland to respond to a break-in at a local drug store when he slipped on ice and struck his forehead on the top wooden frame brace of the car. He continued to work for two days with extreme headaches before he went unconscious on the night of February 27. He was transported to Kingston Hospital and never regained consciousness. Sergeant Lockhart joined the Division on June 1, 1919 and was involved in a number of the large cases at the time.

On July 11, 1942, Trooper Richard L. Hedges, 29, was killed in a traffic accident while following a speeding car on Route 17 west of the hamlet of Chemung. The speeding car passed a dump truck and as Trooper Hedges attempted to pass the same truck, it suddenly turned left in front of his cycle. Trooper Hedges was struck and killed instantly. Trooper Hedges joined the Division on July 1, 1936 and was assigned to the Waverly Station at the time of his death.

Trooper Milton C. Ratner, 27, was killed in action over Sicily during a bombing mission on July 11, 1943. At the time of his death, Trooper Ratner was a First Lieutenant with the United States Army Air Corps stationed in North Africa. Trooper Ratner became a member of the Division on July 1, 1940 at SP Sidney and was granted a Military Leave of Absence on February 1, 1942.

On September 11, 1944, Investigator Bryant P. Stickles, 36, was killed in action on the island of Saipan. Investigator Bryant P. Stickles joined the Division at Troop C Sidney, on August 16, 1936. He was promoted to Investigator on April 1, 1941 and was granted a Military Leave of Absence on January 22, 1943. At the time of his death, Marine Sergeant Stickles was assigned to coordinate the advances of two combat units.  He was attempting to reach one unit from the other when he was killed by an enemy sniper.

On July 17, 1945, Trooper Kenneth B. Knapp, 36, was assigned to handle a domestic complaint in the hamlet of Colchester. Upon his arrival, he was informed by the wife that she had been locked out of the house by her husband. Trooper Knapp looked through a window and observed the husband inside the house, lying face down on the floor next to a shotgun. Trooper Knapp entered the residence believing the subject had committed suicide. When Trooper Knapp entered the room, the husband shot him in the head with a 16-gauge shotgun. Several hours later, while barricaded, the husband committed suicide. Trooper Knapp joined Troop C on December 15, 1931 and was assigned to the Delhi Station at the time of his death.

Trooper Robert V. Conklin, 24, was killed on July 4, 1948, while on motorcycle patrol duty at SP Highland. Trooper Conklin was chasing a speeding car on Route 9W when he was forced off the road by another vehicle. His motorcycle went into the center median and struck a concrete curb, throwing Trooper Conklin into the opposite lane. Trooper Conklin was a two-year veteran of the Division and had served in several other stations of Troop C before his transfer to SP Highland.

On June 14, 1951, Corporal Arthur M. Diffendale, 33, was shot and killed during a traffic stop on the Winnie Hill Road near the city of Oneonta. Witnesses said as Corporal Diffendale approached the vehicle, the driver exited the truck with a rifle and shot Corporal Diffendale. He died as a result of a chest wound while en-route to the hospital. An investigation revealed the truck, license plates and cattle being transported were stolen. The suspect was captured, convicted and sentenced to a term of life imprisonment. He was paroled and subsequently arrested by another Trooper for illegal possession of a handgun. Corporal Diffendale enlisted in Troop K on July 1, 1940, and was granted a Military Leave of Absence during World War II. He returned to the State Police on November 16, 1945.

On February 22, 1952, Trooper Patrick F. O’Hara, 24, was accidentally shot and killed on Route 20 near the hamlet of Bridgewater. Trooper O’Hara responded to help another trooper who had been assaulted and shot at by three escapees from the Herkimer County Jail. Trooper O’Hara captured the three suspect and secured the prisoners in the Troop car. Trooper O’Hara entered the vehicle to drive and his partner entered the rear of the vehicle with his rifle. As the door was shut, it struck the rifle, causing it to discharge. A round passed through the driver’s seat and struck Trooper O’Hara, killing him instantly. Trooper O’Hara joined the State Police on June 16, 1949 and was assigned to the Oneonta Station at the time of his death.

Trooper Richard T. Juna, 43, was killed in a traffic accident on February 8, 1970. Trooper Juna’s death was caused by a drunken driver who fell asleep and crossed into the wrong lane of travel on Route 7 in Otego. Trooper Juna was ejected from his vehicle. Trooper Juna joined the Division of State Police on July 1, 1953, and had been assigned to serve Troop C Stations and Troop T during his 16years of service with the State Police. He was stationed at Sidney at the time of his death.

BCI Captain Samuel N. Rowe, 44, died on May 1, 1970, in a traffic accident while returning from a gambling raid conducted by Troop C personnel under his supervision. Captain Rowe’s vehicle left Route 17 and overturned when a tire failed in the Town of Sanford, Broome County, striking a sign and an earthen embankment. Captain Rowe was a veteran of World War II and the Korean Conflict. He joined the Division at Troop C Sidney on April 16, 1952.

On January 27, 1973, Trooper Robert M. Semrov was shot and killed on January 27, 1973, after making a vehicle and traffic stop on East Lake Road near Richfield Springs. Trooper Semrov allowed the driver to enter his home to retrieve a driver’s license. The subject emerged with a .22 caliber rifle and shot at Trooper Semrov through the windshield of the Troop car, blinding him with fragments of glass. The subject then shot Trooper Semrov five times in the neck and head. Trooper Semrov, near death, managed to struggle with the suspect, but collapsed and died from his wounds. Trooper Semrov joined the Division of State Police on June 19, 1967, and was assigned to the Richfield Springs Station at the time of his death.

On Friday, May 20, 1994, Investigator Ricky J. Parisian, 34, a member of the Special Investigations Unit (SIU), was shot and killed when he attempted to stop an armed robbery at a supermarket in the City of Oneonta. Parisian, who was off-duty at the time of the attack, was shopping with his wife when he spotted the robbery in progress. Assisted by his wife, Parisian first ushered store customers to a safe area. He then ran to the front of the store and tackled the robber. Both men fell through a plate glass window. The attacker, who was armed with a sawed-off shotgun, rose to his feet and fired once at Parisian. Mortally wounded, Parisian continued to struggle with the suspect and managed to tear off the robber’s ski mask and disarm him. He collapsed and his attacker fled. The mask and shotgun were secured as evidence and were instrumental in the apprehension of the robber. Investigator Parisian was an eight-year veteran of the Division at the time of his death.

Trooper David C. Brinkerhoff, 29, died as a result of a gunshot wound on April 25, 2007. The Mobile Response Team was searching a house in the town of Arkville, Delaware County, in response to a residential burglar alarm in the area a suspect was wanted in the shooting of Trooper Matthew J. Gombosi a day earlier. There was an exchange of gunfire, with rounds striking Trooper Richard G. Mattson and fatally wounding Trooper David C. Brinkerhoff. Trooper Brinkerhoff joined the New York State Police on November 2, 1998. After attending the Academy, he briefly served in Troop A and was assigned to Troop F, SP Coxsackie at the time of his death.

Trooper Jill E. Mattice, 31, was killed on January 20, 2010 on State Route 23 in the town of Morris, Otsego County. Trooper Mattice was killed in a motor vehicle collision when her vehicle sideswiped an oncoming tractor trailer. Trooper Mattice, who joined the New York State Police on April 7, 2003, was assigned at SP Oneonta as a School Resource Officer for the Unadilla Valley Central and Franklin School Districts. She is the first female New York State Trooper killed in the line of duty since the agency’s inception in 1917.

On May 29, 2014, Trooper Christopher G. Skinner, 42, was struck and killed by a vehicle while conducting a traffic stop on Interstate 81 in the town of Chenango. Trooper Skinner was patrolling a construction zone and had made a traffic stop. He was in the process of interviewing the operator when a passing vehicle veered from the driving lane to intentionally strike Trooper Skinner. Trooper Skinner was killed instantly. Trooper Skinner was a 13-year veteran and was a member of the Troop C Traffic Incident Management Detail at the time of his death.

Program presenters

Louis “Legend” Palombo

  • Born and grew up in Sidney at Kitty Empett’s Nursing Home on West Main Street
  • (5) Children – Grand-Children: Lots of them
  • His Father, Gene Palombo, was Lou’s most influential person. Ralph Beames was one of Lou’s mentors.
  • One of Lou’s favorite places to visit is the Albany State Police Academy & Museum
  • NY State police dispatcher before he joined the Army from ’61 to ’63, then one year with the Sidney PD.
  • What would change Louie’s life forever is in October of ’64 to September of ’68 he was a helicopter pilot in Vietnam. This included flying troops into battle then later as a medivac, flying the wounded back to safety.
  • Worked for Ferried Helicopter in California delivering the helicopters to get ready for missions in Vietnam. Worked for Petroleum Rig Co., flying from rig to rig over the ocean.
  • Delaware County Sheriff in ’73
  • Finally, Lou settled into SUNY Delhi & Oneonta from 1975 to his retirement in 1995.
  • Volunteered as (VA), Veterans Administration driver for those veterans that needed transportation to Albany

Organizations: Vietnam Helicopter Pilots of America; Fraternal Order of Police; Delaware County Sheriff’s Association; Local Flying Clubs

Lou is known as the “Cat Man” of Afton.

Tom Kelly

Tom Kelly was the troop commander of Troop C from 2003-2004. He started his career with the State Police in 1978 after serving 3 years with the US Marine Corps. Over his career he predominantly worked within the 7 counties of Troop C, but also worked in Troop E (Canandaigua) from 1990-1992 as a Lieutenant and Troop D (Oneida) as the Major, Troop Commander in 2002.

He was also the captain of the Bureau of Criminal Investigation in Troop C for 6 years. He retired from the State Police in 2006 as a staff inspector assigned to Internal Affairs/Professional Standards Office at Division Headquarters in Albany.

After that he worked at Hartwick College for 12 years as the director of campus safety. He and his wife, Jayne, are Long Island natives but have lived in Otsego County since 1978.