Published September 29, 2017
A Vermont state police trooper who pursued and pulled over a speeding New York City rabbi and ordered him at gunpoint to lie on the ground and then with other police handcuffed the rabbi's family has been cleared of wrongdoing.
State police and the Department of Public Safety commissioner performed an investigation of the nighttime traffic stop and found "there was no evidence from the investigation to suggest his actions were based on any type of bias or profiling," according to a statement they issued Friday.
Trooper Justin Thompson clocked a vehicle behind him going at 83 mph (134 kph) in a 65 mph (105 kph) zone on Interstate 91 in Thetford on Aug. 8, the investigation said. Thompson pulled over and put on his lights. Once the vehicle passed he tried to pull it over with his lights and siren, but the driver failed to stop for 4.5 miles.
After the car pulled over, police dashboard video released Friday shows, the trooper shouted from his cruiser for driver Berl Fink to get out and walk backward with his hands up. The trooper, who was holding a gun, ordered Fink to lie on the ground.
Thompson decided to initiate a "high-risk motor vehicle stop" because he was in a rural area late at night with no immediate backup nearby, the vehicle had failed to stop, the occupants' actions were suspicious and the vehicle had been speeding, the investigation said.
In such a stop, officers are trained to order the driver and passengers out of the vehicle and to have their guns drawn, the statement said.
During the stop, a passenger, Fink's son, tried to get out of the vehicle, and Thompson ordered him to stay inside. Once backup police arrived, Fink's son was ordered out of the vehicle and was told to walk backward but failed to do so and walked to a guardrail. He was pushed against the car and was handcuffed.
Two other passengers, Fink's wife, Sarah Fink, and another child, also were handcuffed.
Sarah Fink told the New York Post the ordeal was "traumatizing."
"I tell you, there was brutality," she said. "He was pointing guns."
Berl Fink told the trooper he didn't realize he was speeding. He said once he suspected he was being pulled over he was looking for a safe place to pull off the interstate.
Fink, who's from Brooklyn, was cited for attempting to elude police. He's scheduled for a court appearance on Oct. 18.