BUFFALO, N.Y. – A fugitive suspected of killing a state trooper and wounding two others has been named by federal marshals to their “15 Most Wanted” list while a two-state manhunt continues.
The search for Ralph “Bucky” Phillips, a career thief who broke out of an Erie County jail in April, has become one of the largest in New York history.
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 one step 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 Wednesday.
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, Pa., Pennsylvania state police said.
Nelson, 30, was charged Aug. 31 with hindering the apprehension of Phillips after Pennsylvania troopers recovered 35 guns believed stolen from an Ellington, N.Y., gun shop at his home.
Phillips, 44, is the main suspect in the gun shop break-in.
“We know now that a total of 35 firearms are in the custody of law enforcement,” said ATF spokesman Joseph Green. “The remaining weapons are two pistols, one shotgun, and three high-powered rifles that are still unaccounted for and we are actively seeking those weapons and seeking information.”
Investigators are looking into whether one of the stolen guns was used in the shootings of two New York state troopers on Aug. 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.
In naming Phillips to the U.S. Marshals most wanted list, Marshals Service Director John Clark said the fugitive “has shown he is as dangerous as he is desperate. As such, Phillips is a major threat to the safety of communities throughout an entire region.”
He is suspected of shooting a state trooper near Elmira on June 10 as the officer approached the stolen car he was believed to be driving. Trooper Sean Brown survived the wound.
A $225,000 reward has been offered for information leading to Phillips’ arrest and conviction.
Associated Press writers Michael Virtanen in Albany and Devlin Barrett in Washington, D.C., contributed to this report.