Brooklyn, NY – The Vermont State Police has opened an investigation into claims that four members of a Borough Park family were reportedly held at gunpoint, thrown to the ground and handcuffed by a state trooper during a traffic stop in New England, turning their relaxing vacation into the ultimate nightmare.
Yehuda Fink said that his parents and his younger brother and sister were en route to New Hampshire at approximately 11:30 PM on August 8th when they passed a Vermont state trooper parked on the side of northbound I91, a quiet four line highway near the White Mountains.
The driver of the car, 57 year old Rabbi Berl Fink, saw the flashing lights on top of the police car and reacted as he would have been required to do if he were in New York, by pulling into the left lane as he passed the official vehicle in his 2004 Toyota Camry and returning to the right lane after passing the police car.
Within moments, Rabbi Fink saw the flashing lights of the state trooper’s car in his rear view mirror as he continued on the interstate and turned to his wife to ask if she thought the police officer was trying to signal him to pull over.
“My father was definitely not speeding,” Yehuda Fink told VIN News. “We always make fun of my father because he never goes over the speed limit.”
Shortly thereafter, the state trooper shined a high intensity light on the Fink’s Camry, leaving no doubt that he was pulling Rabbi Fink over.
“My father put on his blinker but there was no shoulder on the road on the spot where he was,” said Yehuda Fink. “As soon as he came to a shoulder, he pulled the car over.”
The state trooper, later identified in the official police report of the incident as Trooper Justin Thompson, approached the car and, according to Fink, began shouting at Rabbi Fink to put both of his hands outside the window of his car.
“He pulled out a gun, ordered my father out of the car, threw him on the floor, sat on his back and handcuffed him,” said Fink. “Then he went back for my 18 year old brother, threw him on the floor and handcuffed him at gunpoint.”
Watching what was happening, Mrs. Fink, a long time principal at a girls’ school in Borough Park, dialed 911 on her cell phone, certain that her family had inexplicably become victims of a terror attack.
“She actually told police that there was another police officer carrying out a terror attack on her family,” said Fink.
While she wasn’t thrown to the ground, Mrs. Fink was next to be handcuffed at gunpoint.
“Then he went back for my 16 year old sister,” said Fink. “My father was on the floor and said ‘she is a teenager. You have no right to touch her,’”
Nearby police officers arrived on scene within moments but Mrs. Fink later told her son that she was sure that Trooper Thompson was going to shoot them all.
The Finks were released several minutes later after being told by the group of officers who had gathered on scene that they had to leave because a violent emergency had arisen elsewhere.
Rabbi Fink, the respected author of several seforim, was handed a summons for attempting to elude a law enforcement officer and was ordered to appear in court on September 20th, the day before Rosh Hashana.
Yehuda Fink said that there appeared to be no reason for the traffic stop. According to Rabbi Fink, he had been driving under 60 miles per hour in a 65 miles per hour zone.
“If he thought that my father was drunk or was on drugs, he should have performed some kind of sobriety test, but he didn’t,” said Fink. “There is just no reason for what happened here. And even if he thought my father was drunk, why did he handcuff the others?”
Fink said that his parents called the next day to tell him about the incident, asking him to come pick them up and bring them back home to Brooklyn.
“They were so traumatized they were afraid to drive,” said Fink. “My parents are strong people but they are very, very traumatized.”
Attempts by both Rabbi Fink and Yehuda Fink to file an official complaint proved fruitless. While the state police was willing to initiate the process of dismissing all charges at Rabbi Fink’s request, they were unwilling to have Trooper Thompson apologize for his actions. And when Yehuda Fink called to file an official report of the incident, he was told that there was no docket number or complaint number, just that his report had been filed.
Unwilling to let the matter drop, the Finks turned to Assemblyman Dov Hikind for assistance. Hikind said that the was horrified to hear what had happened and that he overnighted letters on Wednesday regarding the situation to the Vermont Governor Phil Scott, Vermont Attorney General T.J. Donovan and the superintendent of the state police.
“I am and have always been a very strong supporter of the police but there is no question that this family’s civil rights were violated,” said Hikind. “This should never happen to anyone in America and needs to be dealt with very seriously.”
Hikind was contacted this afternoon by the Vermont State Police’s Internal Affairs Bureau, thanking him for bringing the matter to their attention and informing him that an investigation is being opened into the incident.
“In my 35 years in office I have never gotten a response in less than 24 hours from a government agency,” said Hikind. “Their response is remarkable and they have told me that they will be reaching out to Rabbi Fink and his family for official statements.”
The Vermont State Police did not immediately return calls for comment on the incident.