08/28/2006

N.Y. fugitive suspected in theft of 41 guns

By Vanessa Thomas and Anthony Cardinale
Buffalo News (New York)
Copyright 2006 The Buffalo News
All Rights Reserved

Fugitive Ralph "Bucky" Phillips may have stolen a total of 41 guns during a burglary over the weekend at a Chautauqua County sports shop, State Police reported today.

Troopers believe that Phillips is behind the burglary at Tom's Sports Shop, 5049 Thorton Road, in Ellington.

The burglar stole 35 handguns, six long guns and ammunition, when he broke into the store sometime between Saturday night and Sunday morning, police said.

The Chautauqua County Sheriff's Department and State Police are investigating.

Earlier over the weekend, Phillips was reported hanging out at a local tavern and buying a pack of cigarettes at a store in Warren, Pa.

"We have a couple reports that we're looking into," Warren Police Chief Richard Poorman said. "A person reported spotting him at a local tavern, then he allegedly went out and bought cigarettes."

Employees at Choice Cigarettes confirmed that troopers rushed into the store shortly after 5:30 p.m. Friday, inquiring about a customer matching Phillips' description. A cashier said the man who bought cigarettes had long hair, tattoos and facial hair similar to the photographs of Phillips shown to her by police.

Phillips also was spotted near a northern Pennsylvania golf course over the weekend but eluded troopers. A van carrying a camouflaged SWAT team, accompanied by state police vehicles, including a bloodhound unit, went to a barn near the golf course and searched it.

A vehicle found near a maintenance building at Cable Hollow Golf Course in Russell, Pa., reportedly was stolen Thursday night or Friday morning in Sheffield, Pa.

Phillips, who has been on the run for the almost five months, has returned to Chautauqua County at least three times, from areas that include the eastern Southern Tier, Niagara County and Kentucky.

During his fugitive stint, he is accused of shooting and wounding Trooper Sean Brown in June. Phillips had escaped from the Erie County Correctional Facility in Alden on April 2.

Six people have been arrested for assisting Phillips in his flight from justice.

There is a $50,000 reward for information leading to his capture.

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