09/08/2006

Fugitive manhunt focuses on New York park

The Associated Press

CARROLL, New York- SWAT teams, police helicopters and state troopers converged on this small town near the Pennsylvania state line Friday after authorities said they may have spotted a fugitive sought in one of New York's largest manhunts.

Ralph "Buck" Phillips, who broke out of an Erie County jail in April, is suspected of killing a state trooper and wounding two others. He is on the FBI's 10 Most Wanted Fugitives list, the federal marshals' 15 Most Wanted list and was to be featured on "America's Most Wanted."

Marge Bortz, the owner of Cable Hollow Golf Course in Warren County, Pennsylvania, said police told her Phillips is in the woods around the golf course and has fired shots. Police did not immediately confirm the gunfire. (Watch to see the half-way house where Philips lived and how he escaped -- 2:26)

Bortz said she was told no one was hurt. Police, including a helicopter that landed on the golf course, swooped in about 9:30 a.m. and used a loud speaker to clear the course of about 100 golfers, Bortz said.

She told The Associated Press she didn't know if they were still searching on her property. The course was closed, and 10 people were locked in the clubhouse, including Bortz's family and three employees.

"My son said it was like a platoon of policemen who went in the woods in camo," she told The Associated Press. "There's police all over the place."

A state police spokeswoman confirmed a "very possible Ralph Phillips"' sighting Friday. WBEN-AM in Buffalo reported that a driver refused to pull over for police early Friday after leaving Allegany State Park, along the Pennsylvania line.

The man fled on foot and ran into a wooded area outside Frewsburg, 65 miles south of Buffalo, the station reported.

Phillips, 44, became the subject of a massive search after allegedly shooting a state trooper near Elmira in June.

Authorities believe Phillips has been helped by numerous people since his escape, but has also broken into unoccupied hunting cabins in New York and Pennsylvania and stolen about 15 cars to remain ahead of police, authorities said.

Phillips may have spent 11 days hiding out in a western Pennsylvania home last month, slipping back into New York at least once to steal 41 guns from a gun shop, authorities said.

As New York lawmen searched for Phillips in the rural wooded areas of the southwestern tip of the state, he was staying -- at least some of the time -- at the home of Todd Allen Nelson in Ludlow, Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania state police said.

Nelson, 30, was charged August 31 with hindering the apprehension of Phillips after Pennsylvania troopers recovered 35 guns believed stolen from an Ellington, New York, gun shop at his home.

Phillips is the main suspect in the gun shop break-in.

Investigators are looking into whether one of the stolen guns was used in the shootings of two New York state troopers on August 31 as they staked out the home of Phillips' former girlfriend.

Trooper Joseph Longobardo died Sunday; Donald Baker Jr. has been in critical condition since the shooting. Both troopers were struck with bullets from a high-powered rifle.

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