Elusive 'Mountain Man' arrested after allegedly firing at helicopter

Father, son describe 'scary' encounter with elusive gunman

Published: Tuesday, April 2 2013 11:15 a.m. MDT

Troy James Knapp, known as the "Mountain Man," was captured in the Ferron Reservoir area on Tuesday, April 2, 2013.

Sgt. Dusty Butler, Emery County Sheriff's Office

MANTI — Notorious fugitive Troy James Knapp, known by many simply as "the Mountain Man," was arrested Tuesday after allegedly terrorizing Utah cabin owners for more than seven years.

The heavily armed Knapp fired 10 to 15 shots at a Utah Department of Public Safety helicopter and tried to run into the wilderness but quickly found himself outnumbered by 40 law enforcers on the ground and "severely outgunned," said Sanpete County Sheriff Brian Nielson.

"He attempted to flee, ran into more of our officers, was out-forced, and surrendered," he said. "The public and all of us are safer tonight because of it."

Knapp, 45, was taken into custody just after 10 a.m. near Ferron Reservoir. But the operation began about 72 hours earlier after law enforcement received a tip from two people who were out hunting for shed antlers that Knapp had been spotted. Officers from at least seven counties, DPS, Adult Probation and Parole and the U.S. Marshal's Service all participated in the operation.

At least one shot was fired in return by law enforcement, Nielson said. No one was injured.

"Our goal going into it was that Mr. Knapp would be taken safely," he said.

After tracking Knapp since Friday, officers began moving in about 1 a.m. Knapp had allegedly broken into another cabin. He was found in a mountain area about 9,000 feet in elevation. There was still 3 ½ to 4 feet of snow on the ground and the wind was blowing Tuesday morning.

Nielson said Knapp was "very well armed," possessing a rifle and at least one handgun when he was arrested. What worked in deputies' favor was that Knapp was outside and not barricaded inside a cabin when officers approached.

Knapp was turned over to the custody of the Sanpete County Sheriff's Office.

Knapp is a survivalist who is suspected of breaking into dozens of cabins in southern and central Utah for at least seven years. He faces a total of 18 criminal charges in Iron, Kane and Garfield counties.

The break for law enforcers came Friday when Dale Fuller and his 15-year-old son, Jordon, crossed paths with Knapp while shed antler hunting. 

Just as the father and son were finishing and hiking down the Dairy Trail, they spotted a man who immediately raised red flags for them. They called out "hello" to him.

"He responded with, 'Hello, how are you guys?" Dale Fuller told the Deseret News. "He was wearing a heavier coat and he had it zipped clear up. He had a huge backpack on and he had an assault rifle, like an SKS type of a gun."

Knapp began questioning the two about where they had been, how much snow was on the mountain, and whether they had seen anyone else in the area.

"One of our Labs was just growling the whole time," Fuller said. "When the dog's hair went up, that's when mine went up. … I mean it's scary, especially when you've got your son with you."

Jordon agreed it was obvious his dog didn't like Knapp. "Usually after you hit him on the nose, he'll stop. But this time he didn't stop, he just kept growling," he said.

Concerned about the assault rifle, and not recognizing Knapp yet, the Fullers asked him what he was doing there.

"He said, 'I don't plan on shooting you guys,'" Fuller recalled. "That was nice of him."

Knapp also identified himself as the "Mountain Man" and told them that he was going camping. "I wasn't real sure at the time because of the weirdness of the whole situation if he said 'I am the Mountain Man' or 'I am a mountain man,'" Fuller said.

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