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Escaped prisoner caught after five months on run

Published September 9, 2006

CARROLL, N.Y. - A fugitive suspected of fatally shooting a New York state trooper and wounding two others while on the run for more than five months surrendered to police who had cornered him in a cornfield just over the Pennsylvania state line Friday night.

Ralph "Bucky" Phillips walked out with his hands up, ending the state's largest manhunt for the 44-year-old career thief who broke out of a Buffalo-area jail in April, New York State Police Investigator Gary Colon said.

The arrest capped a frantic day of searching that started with troopers firing at Phillips as he dodged authorities in a woods.

For hours, police had methodically moved closer to Phillips. Just before nightfall, 25 SWAT officers and 12 dogs swept through a cornfield where he was thought to be hiding. He gave himself up about 8 p.m., police said.

Phillips, who had threatened "suicide by cop" and once promised to "splatter pig meat all over Chautauqua County," was on the FBI's 10 Most Wanted list.

Since his escape, he has twisted and turned his way throughout southwestern New York and northwestern Pennsylvania, eluding a huge manhunt, stealing cars, burglarizing homes and camps and relying on a network of acquaintances to stay free, police said.

A U.S. Marshals Service task force joined the investigation Wednesday and had about 30 investigators on the ground, commanding officer Lenny DePaul said.

Friday's search started shortly before 2 a.m. in Pennsylvania when a police officer tried to pull over a stolen car. After a short chase, the car crashed and the driver, identified by police as Phillips, fled into the woods.

A half-hour later, Phillips stole a second car and drove back into New York, where troopers again located him, authorities said.

Phillips jumped out of the car and ducked into woods, zigzagging back and forth between New York and Pennsylvania, authorities said. Police dogs tracked his scent for hours until he was seen by two troopers, Bennett said.

As troopers approached, Phillips wheeled with a pistol in his hand but did not fire, police said. One of the troopers fired an undisclosed number of shots as Phillips disappeared into the woods.

[Last modified September 9, 2006, 01:36:05]

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