UPDATED: Stroupe Caught-Brevard NC

 

July 27, 2017

Phillip Michael Stroupe II

The McDowell County Sheriff's Department has taken Phillip Michael Stroupe II into custody.

According to their report, McDowell County Sheriff Deputy David Jones apprehended Stroupe at approximately 1:30 a.m. on Thursday near Riverdale Market on U.S. 70 West.

The Transylvania County and Henderson County sheriff offices and multiple other agencies have been searching for Stroupe since Saturday, July 22, where a manhunt began for Stroupe in the Pisgah National Forest.

The McDowell County Sheriff's Department was notified of sighting of Stroupe in a silver Honda Ridgeline truck in Yancey County.

The truck is owned by Thomas Bryson, 68, who was reported missing in Henderson County on Wednesday.

Stroupe was traveling on N.C. 80 toward McDowell County after escaping officers in Yancey County.

"The Sheriff's Office and Marion police got in a position to intercept the vehicle," said McDowell County Sheriff Dudley Greene. "They used stop sticks, which were effective."

Stop sticks are flat, spiked sticks used by law enforcement that are placed in the road to deflate tires.

Before the truck came to a stop, Stroupe drove another mile on U.S. 70 West, then escaped through the window and ran into a field.

When Deputy Jones and other officers caught him, Greene said Stroupe was found to be in possession of methamphetamine, and a handgun was found in the field where he fled.

Stroupe has been charged with possession of methamphetamine, fleeing to elude arrest, failure to stop for a steady red light, reckless driving to endanger, resisting a public officer and possession of a firearm by a felon.

He has been placed in the McDowell County Jail under a $100,000 bond.

His first appearance in court is scheduled for Friday, July 28.

At this time, the location of Bryson is still unknown.

What Led Up To The Arrest

A man told authorities that about 8 p.m., Monday, he saw a person who fit Stroupe's description in North Mills River as the man was leaving the campground, according to Henderson County Deputy Sheriff Jason Brown.

Stroupe is described as a 38-year-old white male, who is 5 feet and 8 to 10 inches tall, and has a small frame with several tattoos on his chest, arms and neck.

Brown said they were able to locate "positive" tracks of the suspect in the North Mills River area.

Because of that sighting and information from several leads on Tuesday, Brown said they believe Stroupe is now in the Mills River area.

"Our perimeter at this point is just North of Whitaker Road all the way down to Boylston Highway along North Mills River and along the river access itself," Brown said in a press briefing with Capt. Jeremy Queen, with the Transylvania County Sheriff's Office Tuesday. "It appears to us at this point that he has contained himself to the river area, so our perimeter is basically by both sides of the North Mills River."

Queen said that while the sighting is not 100 percent confirmed, it is reliable.

"That's why we made the decision to move our command post down here to North Mills River Road in Henderson County, though operations are still going on at the Cradle of Forestry, and we made the decision to open up Highway 276, though Yellow Gap Road is still closed," Queen said.

The majority of the operations will now be taken over by the Henderson County Sheriff's Office, Queen said.

Brown said they suspect Stroupe is trying to get to N.C. 280 so that he can get a ride.

"We would ask people, whether they are shopping or driving in the area, if they see

someone who matches that description to please don't hesitate to call 911," Brown said.

Saturday

According to the Transylvania County Sheriff's Office, on Saturday they received a "be on the lookout" (BOLO) from the Henderson County Sheriff's Office because of a vehicle matching the description of one involved in a breaking and entering in Mills River.

A Transylvania County Sheriff's Office deputy located a vehicle matching the description in Pisgah National Forest off U.S. 276 and attempted to pull the vehicle over on Avery Creek Road (Forest Service Road 477), but the driver refused to stop.

The suspect continued on Avery Creek Road, where, at one point he passed the mountain biker, stopped the car and got out and ran to the mountain biker to take his bike at gunpoint.

The suspect then placed the bike in the vehicle and continued driving, eventually parking the car sideways to block the road, and escaped into the woods with the mountain bike.

A search perimeter was set in the area, with multiple agencies joining in, such as the Transylvania County Sheriff's Office Special Response Team (SRT), the U.S. Forest Service Law Enforcement, the State Highway Patrol, the Brevard Police Department, the Henderson County Sheriff's Office (as well as their own SRT), the State Bureau of Investigation and the Buncombe County Sheriff's Office.

Stroupe's last known address is in Weaverville, N.C., and according to reports, he has a history of resisting arrest. He is considered armed and dangerous and has outstanding warrants in Buncombe County for kidnapping, with pending charges also in Yancey County.

Sunday

On Sunday, Stroupe was spotted on Yellow Gap Road (Forest Service Road 1206) coming out of the forest.

Another encounter involved Stroupe and a man fishing in the Yellow Gap area. Originally, it was reported that he had taken the man hostage, demanding a ride out of the forest, but it was later clarified that Stroupe only talked to the man for 30 minutes, revealing that he had a gun in his waistband, but did not point it at him, and that Stroupe had asked the man to make a phone call for him.

"He did make a call," Queen said. "He called us."

SRTs searched for him in the Yellow Gap Road area throughout Sunday night, while the main entrance to the Pisgah National Forest remained blocked.

Another clarification made later in the investigation regarded the initial BOLO from the Henderson County Sheriff's Office. The vehicle Stroupe was driving when he fled matched the vehicle involved in the breaking and entering in Mills River, but Queen said there is not a confirmed connection.

"So, that's its own ongoing investigation," Queen said. "The vehicle of the current suspect did match the description, but there hasn't been a positive link."

On Sunday night, fresh tire tracks in the Yellow Gap area above the Pink Beds area near the Cradle of Forestry led investigators to believe Stroupe still had access to the bike.

At that time, Pisgah National Forest had been evacuated along U.S. 276, which included popular attractions such as Sliding Rock.

Monday

On Monday, visitors with reservations at Davidson River Campground were allowed in the forest, and Queen said some forest employees were allowed to return to work.

The Blue Ridge Parkway stayed open because, according to Queen, it covered too wide of an area to be monitored with the current manpower.

"It's nearly impossible to shut down the entire Pisgah National Forest over several counties," Queen said, "including the Blue Ridge Parkway."

Then, Queen reported in a press briefing that Stroupe's 62-year-old aunt, Norma Stroupe Goforth, of Leicester, N.C., was arrested at 11 a.m. on Monday for one misdemeanor count of resisting, obstructing and delay of a public officer.

"She failed to leave the investigation perimeter after lawful order and multiple warnings," Queen said.

Tuesday

On Tuesday around 3:30 p.m., U.S. 276 in the Pisgah Ranger District, Davidson River Road and Sliding Rock were reopened, with the Cradle of Forestry, North Mills River Campground, Wash Creek Group Horse Camp, Yellow Gap Road and Wash Creek Road remaining closed. At a press conference in Mills River at 5 p.m., Brown said, officers were exhausted.

"At any one given time, we are upwards of probably 50 to 70 people searching," Queen said. "We've really increased manpower on Monday, and we've maintained a manpower force of about 40 people, but over the last day and a half, we have saturated the area."

Queen said the K9 units were equally exhausted.

"They need rest," he said. "The terrain is very rugged and at one point it became so rugged we had to pull them out."

The terrain of the search has changed, Brown said.

"We've gone from mountainous terrain to flat, farmland, so the tactics will change," Brown said.

Brown added that no roads would be closed unless they get information that makes them think they need to do so.

In addition to the terrain, Brown said the rural surroundings contribute to more challenges.

"A perimeter in a rural area is vastly different than policing an urban area where you have streets that you can drive by and block off," Brown said. "There is no way to completely surround the perimeter out here. No agency has that kind of manpower in a rural area, so what we do is set up specific 'choke points' – points that make the most sense, where someone can observe the most area. It would be impossible to say he is completely contained in this type of environment."

Brown added that community watch is important.

"We would not be here if it weren't for a citizen calling in a tip," Brown said. "Obviously we don't want anyone trying to find this guy or approach him, but folks in the community need to be our eyes and ears."

Brown asked the public to call in a sighting even if one isn't sure it's Stroupe.

When asked if he has a message for the fugitive, Queen said, "Turn yourself in. And if someone is out there trying to help him, please make the right decision and help us bring this to the safest resolution as we possibly can."

Local Impact

Clark Lovelace, the executive director of Brevard/Transylvania Chamber of Commerce and the Tourism Development Authority, said there was a "dramatic" decrease in business for establishments at the entrance of Pisgah National Forest.

Pisgah Forest Riding Stables on National Forest Road, close to where Stroupe took the bike, had to shut down completely.

In an interview on Tuesday, owner Jerry Dean said he usually does 40 to 50 rides a day, and that Tuesday was the second full day to be closed.

He said Queen escorted him to his stables to make sure his 10 horses had food and water.

Dean said Tuesday he had just received a call from the Pisgah Ranger Station informing him that Avery Creek Road was being reopened, which he said meant he could start booking rides again on Wednesday.

"I'm tickled to death, and I want to thank law enforcement and Capt. Queen for the time they put in, and allowing me to take care of my horses," Dean said.

The Cradle of Forestry, where the Transylvania County Sheriff's Office and other agencies had set up their command post for the search, reopened on Wednesday, along with the Sliding Rock Recreation Area.

Kevin Howell, owner of Davidson River Outfitters, said he had "definitely" saw a decrease in business with the "do-it-yourself" fishermen during the closure, but that he was able to relocate guided trips to other streams.

"We haven't taken a huge hit, but we've lost quite a bit of money," Howell said.

Sam Salman, owner of The Hub, located at the entrance to the forest, said he was glad to get back to business as usual when the barricade was removed on Tuesday.

"There had been a noticeable lack of traffic, and (people) were parking at the BI-LO and walking down here to see if we were open, and this last weekend was the worst," Salman said. "Obviously, we hope that this thing ends soon and this guy is caught, so the forest can return to normal as well."

Layton Parker, the manager at The Hampton Inn Brevard, said he had a lot of people call to cancel but just as much who were relocated because they had to abandon their campsite.

"I don't think we've seen a significant decline or increase," Parker said. "It's kind of like when you have a snow storm. By the time we lose our regular guests, we pick up locals who need a place to stay for work."

Parker said their most significant impact had been the fact that they have had to redirect people.

"We usually run about 50 rooms a night, and we've had to redirect those people from Pisgah to Gorges, DuPont and other places to go," Parker said. "My number one question is, 'what brings you to Brevard?' I'd say DuPont has been the most popular for waterfalls and Hiking. With Pisgah you have people who come for Hiking, waterfalls, mountain Biking and fly fishing, so as an overall demand generator it's probably stronger, but when it comes to just Hiking and waterfalls, we are seeing a bigger trend with DuPont."

At the Transylvania County Visitor's Center, Lovelace said they also had to redirect people from Pisgah Forest.

"I'm sure some of this is a national story, but, realistically, most people aren't going to check the news where they visit," Lovelace said. "We've had a lot of people stop by asking how to get to Looking Glass Falls, and we've had to tell them there is a law enforcement issue."

Unfortunately, Lovelace said, whether it be an act of God or man, these things happen.

"You can't control either, and at the end of the day, we have to support our law enforcement in whatever their efforts are and do our best to deal with and manage it, whether that's individually as a business owner or collectively as a group," Lovelace said.

 
 

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