Massive Manhunt Continues In Forest - Pisgah Forest, NC

 

July 24, 2017

Jermiah Reed

Access to the Pisgah National Forest is restricted as the search goes on.

The search continues for an armed suspect in Pisgah National Forest. As of going Monday evening, Phillip Michael Stroupe II is believed still to be at large in the forest.

Stroupe, 38, of Weaverville, stands at 5 feet and 8 inches, and has a large tattoo on his neck. He has outstanding warrants in Buncombe County for an alleged kidnapping and charges pending in Yancey County, according to a Transylvania County sheriff's Office press release.

As of this morning, Stroupe has spent two nights in the woods.

He is considered armed and dangerous, and has been on the run since Saturday morning when he allegedly broke into a home in Mills River and stole several items.

A BOLO (be on the lookout) alert was sent out of Henderson County in relation to that crime. Later that morning, a Transylvania County sheriff's deputy spotted the vehicle fitting the BOLO description near Avery Creek Road and attempted to pull the vehicle over.

Instead, the driver fled the scene, taking Avery Creek Road – Forest Service Road 477 – into the Pisgah National Forest.

With the officer still in pursuit, Stroupe encountered a mountain biker and stole his 2015 Giant Reign mountain bike, black in color, at gunpoint.

After stealing the bicycle, Stroupe used his vehicle to block the road, at which point he took off into the forest on the stolen bicycle.

According to Jeremy Queen, a captain with the Transylvania County Sheriff's Office, Stroupe has a history of violence and resisting law enforcement.

Throughout Saturday and Sunday, law enforcement began a search and, as of this morning, the search area is focused around Yellow Gap Road and the Wolf Ford Trail area.

Queen said the rain over the weekend made the search "extremely difficult," as it only worsens the steep conditions and heavy foliage that law enforcement must contend with.

Making matters worse, Queen said Stroupe has been described as a "survivalist" and is believed to have the skills necessary to hold up in the forest for some time.

Queen said he was hoping Stroupe would get "more and more tired, and more and more hungry," and eventually give up his escape and turn himself in.

Since stealing the bicycle Saturday morning, there have been two sightings of Stroupe.

The first came Saturday afternoon when a woman driving on Yellow Gap Road saw Stroupe jump out of the forest.

She continued driving past Stroupe, later contacting authorities, and said she saw him disappear back into the woods.

There was another encounter with Stroupe Sunday morning, when he came across a man fishing near the Yellow Gap area.

Queen said Stroupe displayed a weapon in his waistband – which authorities believe to be a 38-caliber revolver – and asked the fisherman to give him a ride out of the forest.

The man entered a discussion with Stroupe, with the encounter lasting approximately 30 minutes, according to Queen.

Ultimately, Stroupe let the man go after he said he would make a phone call on Stroupe's behalf.

The fisherman did make a phone call – contacting law enforcement – after leaving the area.

Initially, the encounter was reported as a "hostage" situation, but Queen said that description was inaccurate and a case of "miscommunication."

Queen was explicit in stating that anybody who attempted to help Stroupe escape or abet him in any way would be criminally charged.

"I want to be very clear on that," he said. "It will be taken seriously."

Late Sunday night, Queen said authorities found fresh tire tracks in the Yellow Gap area, which is above the Pink Beds area near the Cradle of Forestry, leading authorities to believe that he still has access to the stolen bicycle.

Almost all of the Pisgah National Forest was evacuated along the U.S. 276 corridor over the weekend, including popular attractions like Sliding Rock.

In the past 24 hours, visitors with reservations at Davidson River Campground have been allowed into the forest. Monday morning Queen said certain forest employees would be allowed to return to work as well.

The Blue Ridge Parkway remains open to the public, but access to U.S. 276 is blocked.

Queen said there are roughly 30-35 members of the search party working in teams to apprehend Stroupe. They have received assistance from neighboring counties, as well as law enforcement agencies from across the state.

Authorities are using canines to try and track Stroupe's scent. Arial search efforts have been impeded due to the weather and heavy, low-lying fog.

Search efforts continued throughout Sunday night, although they were scaled back significantly due to nightfall.

This morning, Queen said the search area remained the same and authorities strongly believe Stroupe is located somewhere within that contained search perimeter.

"It's a bit of a needle in a haystack scenario," Queen said regarding the search. "We have hikers and campers who get lost in these woods and it takes days and weeks sometimes to find those folks – and they want to be found. We're dealing with somebody who doesn't want to be found, so that makes it very difficult."

Queen added that the foliage was so thick in the forest that if a person knew how to hide, they could hide so well that somebody searching might step on them without seeing them.

"It's a very exhausting and tiring process," Queen said."It's a tedious process."

Stroupe is a convicted felon with an extensive criminal record, including crimes in Buncombe and Henderson counties.

Queen said Stroupe has been incarcerated previously and was recently released related to a crime in Yancey County.

Jeremiah Reed

Capt. Jeremy Queen, with the Transylvania County Sheriff's Office, has been keeping the public and media informed about the case.

Queen added that Stroupe has shown a history of "resisting and violence toward law enforcement," bringing a heightened anxiety to search efforts.

Queen said the situation is extremely unique and that he has never seen a search effort encompass such a wide area.

"I've been involved in law enforcement for almost 20 years... and I never remember anything like this in the Pisgah National Forest," he said.

He was quick to acknowledge the hard work of those involved in the search effort.

"On behalf of our Sheriff's Office, I'm so proud of these guys and all the work they're doing. They're working their tails off and they're doing a fantastic job," Queen said.

If anyone has any information, contact the Sheriff's Office at (828) 884-3168.

Updates on the search will be posted on The Transylvania Times' website and Facebook page.

 
 

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