New York State
Cops say man killed in scuffle Thursday had a violent past
Trooper fired one shot from his handgun
TOWN OF NEWBURGH — A man killed on Thursday during a fight with a state trooper had a history of violent confrontations with police officers.
The last battle for William "Curley" Baynes began about 7:40 p.m. Thursday on the side of Route 32 in the Town of Newburgh. State police Maj. Ed Raso said Trooper David Ruderfer had stopped a black 1993 Lexus that Baynes was driving. The alleged traffic offense wasn't clear on Friday.
State police and the Orange County District Attorney's Office are still investigating what happened next, but they say there was a physical fight between the men and Ruderfer fired one shot from his .45-caliber Glock handgun. Baynes collapsed on the pavement. He was pronounced dead a short time later at the Newburgh campus of St. Luke's Cornwall Hospital.
Baynes was 51. He'd returned to the City of Newburgh in 2008 after his latest stint in state prison on a drug conviction. Most of his later interaction with cops centered on narcotics, but he was a suspect in burglaries and other crimes in the early 1990s.
Friends saw a tenderness in him. He baked cakes for friends and asked about the well-being of loved ones, said Bonnie Herring, who'd known him for years.
"I don't care what the police say or what the records say, he's good at heart," Herring said.
History of fights
Police knew him as an old-school fighter. One officer complained Baynes cracked his vertebrae in 1991 during a fight. Officers had responded to a harassment complaint and ended up in a brawl. They pressed assault charges, and Baynes countered with claims officers smashed his face into a brick wall and clubbed him. A jury dismissed the assault charges at trial.
Paul Weber remembers the day he saw Baynes leaving a neighbor's house with sacks-full of jewelry. Weber, a former college wrestler, was starting his career with Newburgh police at the time. Weber was off-duty, but he chased the bigger man for blocks on South Street before Baynes got tired of running.
"He just turns and squares off in the middle of the street," Weber said. "He fought like a champ, and I was right there with him."
A second man eventually called police from a pay phone and helped Weber hold Baynes until back-up arrived. Baynes was later convicted of second-degree burglary. Weber saw him years later on the Newburgh waterfront. He'd put on weight, looked like he'd kicked drugs and cleaned up his life, Weber said.
Weber has since retired from the police department and is a partner at a law firm in Cornwall, but he remembers clearly the fight with Baynes as the toughest of his life.
Trooper on leave
Raso, the state police major, said Ruderfer was banged up after Thursday night's encounter. A Town of Newburgh detective drove him to the Cornwall campus of St. Luke's, where he was treated for bumps and bruises and underwent X-rays on his arm.
Raso said they still don't know what started the fight. Ruderfer, a member of the K-9 unit and an Iraq combat veteran, has been placed on paid administrative leave pending an investigation. Thomas Mungeer, president of the New York Troopers Benevolent Association, said Ruderfer was lucky he didn't suffer life-threatening injuries during an incident that highlighted the dangerous, unpredictable nature of the job.
"The trooper was clearly in a fight for his life," Mungeer said.
The shooting unearthed old concerns for others, such as Baynes' friend, Herring.
She said the trooper could have taken Baynes into custody without killing him.
"They're just trying to make this wrong into a right," Herring said.