Elusive 'Mountain Man' was paranoid, detailed, police say
'I got out ... quick,' chopper pilot says after shots were fired at him
Sam Penrod, Deseret News
MANTI — While searching for the notorious Mountain Man from a helicopter, pilot Luke Bowman didn't hang around once shots were fired in his direction.
"I didn't get exactly what he was aiming at. At that point, I didn't wait around. I got out of the way as quick as I could," the Department of Public Safety captain said Wednesday.
"Then they reported more shots being fired. The sheriff (on the ground) said he was firing at the helicopter."
That gunman, police say, was Troy Knapp.
After nearly seven years of allegedly breaking into summer cabins over much of central and southern Utah, the 45-year-old survivalist was finally taken into custody Tuesday near Ferron Reservoir after more than 40 county, state and federal officers surrounded him.
Investigators have learned a lot about Knapp since his arrest because they say he has been very chatty. Knapp was not only elusive, but paranoid, they say. And he also has a good memory.
"He was real forthcoming in talking about where he had been, and what he was doing and why he was going around and basically, just justified why he was breaking into cabins," said Sevier County Sheriff Nathan Curtis.
"He said (cabin owners) had it, and he needed it. They had excess because they had these cabins and they were leaving these things behind in them and so it was obvious to him they didn't need him, so he took them."
Officers had been working on an operation to corner Knapp after a father and son hunting for shed antlers ran into him on Friday. The final confrontation went down about 10 a.m. Tuesday after Knapp allegedly fired multiple shots at Bowman's DPS helicopter.
Originally, the helicopter was being used to try and locate Knapp. Based on snowshoe prints visible from the air, Bowman said he and two SWAT team members in the helicopter with him had narrowed Knapp's location down to three of 10 cabins. The helicopter was flying about 300 feet off the ground but was still 800 to 1,000 feet away from the cabins when a sheriff on the ground reported that a shot had been fired.
"We didn't know exactly where (the shots) had come from. At that point we moved away from the cabins," Bowman told the Deseret News.
He said he tried to make the helicopter "an unpredictable target" by continuously changing speed and altitude.
"Then he (Knapp) came out onto the deck of the cabin. One of the sheriffs got visual on him at that point, said it looked like he was getting ready to leave. As he left the cabin, we got visual on him, providing information to the ground crew so they knew where he was going, because they can't see him at this point."
That's when Bowman said he saw Knapp raise his rifle to his shoulder.
"I never really felt threatened by the shooting because we were able to vary our altitude and our air speed, and we were unpredictable enough that it was very unlikely he would actually hit the helicopter," Bowman said. "At that point it's more concerning for crews on the ground, in my opinion, because maybe if he's willing to shoot at us, he's willing to shoot at them. And they had to get a lot closer proximity than we did."
Knapp took off running. He got about 30 yards down the driveway when he was confronted by deputies. At that point, Bowman said no one was sure what he would do. On board the helicopter was a SWAT team sniper who was trained in shooting from a chopper. The helicopter was moving into position where the sniper could shoot if necessary, but he never had to.
As deputies on the ground began to move in on Knapp, he pointed his rifle directly at Emery County Sheriff Greg Funk, according to Curtis. Knapp did not fire, but Funk felt his life was in imminent danger and fired a shot himself. Knapp was not hit, and he ran off again.
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