TOWN OF CHENANGO, N.Y. -- The motorist who struck and killed a New York state trooper Thursday during a routine traffic stop on Interstate 81 did so intentionally, state police said.
Almond Upton, 60, of Melrose, Fla., was charged with first-degree murder in the death of Trooper Christopher G. Skinner, 42, and arraigned in Town of Chenango Court on Thursday night.
"I'm not sure what his mental state was at the time of the accident," State Police Superintendent Joseph D'Amico said of Upton. "He did make admissions that he saw the trooper and intentionally struck him."
Skinner, of Binghamton, had pulled over a black BMW for suspected speeding just before noon on I-81, between Chenango Bridge and Castle Creek. Police said he was out of his vehicle when he was struck by a white Toyota Tacoma driven by Upton.
Skinner was killed instantly, police said.
Upton traveled from the passing to the driving lane to hit Skinner and the car he had stopped, police said. The driver of the BMW was uninjured.
Before he came upon the traffic stop, police said, Upton sideswiped two other vehicles while speeding, causing minor injuries. Police did not say how fast he was going.
After striking Skinner, Upton continued a short distance northbound on I-81 before stopping his vehicle off the road. Upton then fled on foot, police said. After a brief search, he was tracked down by police dogs a few hundred yards into a heavily wooded area off I-81, where was he was found naked. He was taken into custody around 1 p.m.
D'Amico said nearly 100 officers took part in the manhunt. Upton told police he was en route to Connecticut to visit his mother.
Police said Thursday it did not appear Upton was under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
"We'll be speaking to anyone who had any connection to Upton and try to track his movements prior to the accident and try to make some sense of this, honestly," D'Amico said.
Upton was convicted of driving under the influence in 2008 in Florida. In that incident, Upton was fined $1,000 and sentenced to 12 months probation after pleading no contest to the DUI charge in Clay County, Florida. According to Clay County Clerk of the Circuit Court records, Upton's driver's license was revoked for six months.
Skinner was a 13-year veteran of the state police department. He is survived by his mother, Sharyn; brother, Shawn; fiancee, Surrena; and two children, 15-year old Kyle and 12-year-old Erin.
Troop C Commander Major Donald Faughnan said Skinner was a model state trooper.
"He was a dedicated worker ... and took his job very seriously," Faughnan said. "He's sorely going to be missed."
Between 2004 and 2013, 136 law enforcement deaths nationwide involved officers being struck by a vehicle, according to data from the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, which was last updated on April 14. By comparison, 548 law enforcement officers were shot to death in the line of duty during the same time period, according to the Memorial Fund data.
Contributing: Jon Harris