Police: Retired trooper who killed 2 had tactical gear, filed for bankruptcy

Crime
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FORT LITTLETON, Pa. (WHTM) – Court records show a retired state trooper was wearing tactical gear and an armored vest when police say he fatally shot two Pennsylvania Turnpike workers during a toll plaza robbery.

The search warrant affidavit also shows Clarence L. Briggs used three guns Sunday morning to rob the Fort Littleton Interchange and kill Danny Crouse, 55, a toll collector, and Ronald Heist, 72, a security contractor.

Police filed the documents to search Briggs’s Upper Mifflin Township home following the shooting because Briggs was known to own all kinds of firearms and had common knowledge of explosives. They also believed they might find receipts or notes that included the planning of the robbery.

Briggs’s wife Donna admitted to investigators that she and her husband filed for bankruptcy and that they were $100,000 in credit card debt, the documents state.

Federal bankruptcy records filed in March 2015 show the couple had debts totaling nearly $315,000, including a $179,000 mortgage and more than $2,500 owed to the IRS for 2013 taxes.

The 54-year-old Briggs patrolled the Turnpike from the Newville barracks before he retired in 2012. Bankruptcy records show he received a monthly pension of $5,200 and was employed as a range master for IWI US Inc., a Harrisburg-based gun manufacturer.

Police say Briggs went to the toll plaza during a 7 a.m. shift change and pointed a gun at the outgoing collector and Crouse, her relief, as they were counting fare money in their booth. The woman said she and Crouse were ordered out of the booth and into the office break room where she was told to tie Crouse’s hands with a piece of cord, according to court documents.

The woman, identified in the affidavit as Martha Delores Berkstresser, told police she purposely tied the knots loosely. She said Crouse was able to break free as Briggs tied her hands, and as the two men fought for the gun, Berkstresser said she ran back to her booth to call for help and heard at least four shots. She said the armored money collection van arrived at that time and Heist jumped out to help Crouse.

Police said Crouse and Heist were fatally shot outside the building entrance and Briggs fired several shots at the van driver.

Briggs then stole the van with several bags of money, drove to his BMW in a parking lot across from the toll plaza entrance, and was shot in an exchange of gunfire with a responding trooper.

Briggs also was accused of domestic assault and harassment in March 2014. According to court records, his wife accused Briggs of hitting her during an argument.

“My recollection is that the matter was dismissed at the district justice level,” his then-attorney Corky Goldstein said. “There were no injuries, no gun or anything like that involved.”

Goldstein said he hadn’t spoken with Briggs since then, but he was still shocked to hear of the shooting.

“I recall him, Mr. Briggs, to be a very nice man,” he said. “I just feel terrible for the people who were killed. Frankly, I feel badly for him and his family. Who knows what happened.”

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