Retired Pennsylvania trooper in shootout had financial, marital woes

Reuters News
|
Posted: Mar 21, 2016 5:52 PM

By David DeKok

HARRISBURG, Pa. (Reuters) - A retired Pennsylvania state trooper who police say killed two people in an attempted robbery at a highway toll plaza before being fatally shot had struggled with financial and marital problems, court records show.

Clarence Lee Briggs, 54, of Newville, gunned down a toll booth employee and a security guard on Sunday at the Pennsylvania Turnpike's Fort Littleton plaza, about 65 miles west of Harrisburg. 

Briggs, who served in the state police for 24 years, was removing money from a van used to collect cash from toll booths when a trooper arrived and killed him in an exchange of gunfire.

An autopsy showed a single bullet hit Briggs, severing an artery in his thigh and causing him to bleed to death, Fulton County Coroner Berley Souders told Reuters.

When Briggs and his wife, Donna, filed for bankruptcy a year ago, the couple listed 34 credit cards with a total balance of $93,032, according to court records. They also had student loans of about $18,000, a personal loan of about $15,000, a balance on their home of just under $180,000, and owned a Lexus and BMW.

Donna Briggs could not be reached for comment. The couple had an adult son living out of state, according to the website Penn.live.

The killings came four months after a court had approved a Chapter 13 bankruptcy plan wiping out a portion of his debt but requiring him to pay back $67,260 over five years, according to lawyers who arranged the plan for Briggs.

“We are in shock and disbelief,” Chad Julius, a lawyer at the Harrisburg firm of Jacobson & Julius, said in a statement. 

Briggs received a monthly pension of $5,220, court records show. He had a part-time job as a customer service representative for IWI US Inc., an Israeli weapons maker.

Court records also showed the couple were heading toward divorce. As a consequence, the wife's part of the bankruptcy was spun off into a separate case in November.

“He was the last person they would have expected to do that,” said Mike Simmers, a retired state police captain who served as a spokesman for a group of retired troopers who worked with Briggs. “It was like a kick to the stomach.”

His former colleagues described Briggs as a hard worker with a driven personality, not uncommon among troopers who worked in the unit that patrolled the Pennsylvania Turnpike, Simmers said.

(Editing By Frank McGurty and David Gregorio)