Image: New York manhunt
David Duprey  /  AP
Police search an unidentified motorist's trunk at a checkpoint in Fredonia, N.Y., on Saturday. Authorities are searching for Ralph 'Bucky' Phillips, a fugitive who escaped from jail in April and is suspected of shooting two state troopers on Thursday.
updated 9/2/2006 7:08:06 PM ET 2006-09-02T23:08:06

State police warned Saturday that a fugitive suspected of shooting three state troopers, two of them in an ambush, is a threat not just to law enforcement but to anyone who might get in his way.

“He’s a desperate man, he knows he’s wanted and his choices are running out,” Trooper Rebecca Gibbons said.

For months, authorities in western New York have scoured hunting camps, stopped traffic and questioned acquaintances in the search for Ralph “Bucky” Phillips, an escaped inmate with the skills of a seasoned outdoorsman.

The manhunt intensified Thursday after two troopers were ambushed by a sniper hiding in the woods outside the home of Phillips’ former girlfriend. The two officers were in critical condition as 75 more troopers were called up to reinforce the search.

Phillips, who escaped from jail in April, may be traveling in the mostly rural area of western Pennsylvania and western New York, said State Police Superintendent Wayne Bennett. Since his escape, Phillips has been suspected in the shooting of another state trooper in June, numerous burglaries and theft from a gun shop.

“If someone in the community comes between him and his freedom,” Gibbons said, “it is our feeling that he will become desperate and possibly hurt them.”

‘We have long memories’
Police are not looking for a shootout, Bennett said.

“That’s not the way we want this to end,” he said.

However, he warned Phillips: “We have long memories. We don’t forget. We are patient. ... Don’t stop to look over your shoulder because we’ll be there.”

Image: Ralph "Bucky" Phillips
New York State Police via AP
Am undated photo shows Ralph "Bucky" Phillips, a prison escapee wanted in the shooting of two N.Y. state troopers.
A friend said Saturday said he feared a shootout is exactly how the search will end.

“He’ll never surrender,” said Dan Suitor, who said he had known Phillips for 25 years. “I’ve always said it was going to be suicide by cop.”

A reward for help leading to his arrest and conviction was increased to $225,000 from $50,000 on Friday.

Months on the run
Phillips, 44, broke out of the Erie County jail on April 2 by using a can opener to make a 2-by-2-foot opening in the kitchen ceiling and escaping through the roof. He was serving 90 days for a parole violation.

Since then, he has helped himself to food, clothes and guns from unattended homes and hunting cabins and is believed to have stolen about 15 cars, police said.

He is also wanted in the June 10 shooting of a trooper who survived after being shot in the abdomen as he approached a stolen car near Elmira.

The five-month manhunt has turned Phillips into a kind of a local amusement here in his native Chautauqua County. A restaurant offered a “Bucky Burger,” and some bars sold T-shirts with sayings such as “Got Bucky?”

Since the latest shootings, however, some Chautauqua County residents are less amused.

“In the beginning, it was ’Ha, ha.’ Now it’s scary, and I just wish it was over,” waitress Dawn McCarthy said.

‘I’m sure he just snapped’
Troopers Joseph Longobardo, 32, and Donald Baker Jr., 38, were shot Thursday while staking out the isolated hilltop home of Phillips’ former girlfriend, Kasey Crowe, who is among six people accused of aiding the fugitive. One trooper was hit in the back by a bullet that penetrated his bullet-resistant vest. The other suffered massive blood loss from a severed leg artery.

Suitor said the arrest of Crowe and Phillips’ 23-year-old daughter, Patrina Wright, on Aug. 24 drove his friend over the edge, especially after authorities removed Wright’s three children — the youngest 3 weeks old — from her custody for a week.

“Buck has made it clear numerous times over the years, you don’t mess with his family and you don’t mess with his friends ... Once they went after that daughter and those grandchildren, I’m sure he just snapped,” Suitor said.

Wright, contacted by telephone Saturday, declined to discuss her father at length.

“We are caught in the middle, though, and my kids were used to bring him out,” she said.

Family and friends said Phillips, a career thief who has spent nearly half his life in jail, had never before been violent and would not shoot a trooper.

Authorities say his disdain for police was well known. Sheriff’s officials said that when he was released or transferred from the Chautauqua County jail several years ago, he left officials a note threatening “to splatter pig meat all over Chautauqua County.”

© 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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