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Ralph James PHILLIPS

 
 
 
 
 

 

 

 

 


A.K.A.: "Bucky"
 
Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: Escape
Number of victims: 1
Date of murder: August 31, 2006
Date of arrest: September 8, 2006
Date of birth: June 19, 1962
Victim profile: Joseph Longobardo, 32 (New York State Trooper)
Method of murder: Shooting (high-powered rifle)
Location: Chautauqua County, New York, USA
Status: Sentenced to life in prison without parole on December 19, 2006
 
 

 
 
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Ralph James "Bucky" Phillips (born June 19, 1962) is a convicted murderer from upstate New York caught on September 8, 2006 by the Pennsylvania State Police. He was wanted for the shooting of three New York State troopers, one of whom died from his wounds.

On September 7, 2006 he became the 483rd fugitive listed by the FBI on the Ten Most Wanted list. Prior to his capture, Phillips attained the dubious distinction of being one of the few fugitives ever to be simultaneously on the FBI Ten Most Wanted Fugitives list, and the Marshal Service's list. He replaced Warren Jeffs on the FBI's list and was apprehended the day after he was added.

Phillips was raised in Stockton, New York and is a non status Seneca Indian, meaning he is not recognized as a citizen of the Seneca Nation of Indians. He has ties to several Indian reservations in western New York, as well as contacts from his many stints in jails and prison.

He spent much of his life on the run, starting as a child by running away from his abusive father. Bucky was memoralized in early 2007 in the song titled "Bucky Phillips" by the Patriot Act of Rockland County, New York.

Prior criminal history

Phillips had a fairly expansive history in the New York State correctional system prior to his April, 2006 escape from the Erie County Correctional Facility in Alden, New York. He had previously been convicted on three counts of burglary in the third degree, two counts of grand larceny in the fourth degree, and other various crimes.

During a transfer out of Chautauqua County Jail in Mayville, Phillips left a note threatening "to splatter pig meat all over Chautauqua County," with pig being derogatory slang for a police officer.

At the time of his escape, he was four days short of release on a 90-day sentence for violating the terms of his parole. He had been released in November 2005 after a burglary conviction, but failed to report to his parole officer, and was reimprisoned on January 6. It was widely reported that Phillips had not been told he only had four days left until he would be released.

There is some controversy about the events leading to the revocation of his parole. Family members claim that the ex-husband of Phillip's ex-girlfriend Kasey Crowe intentionally misinformed Phillips' parole officer in a ploy to return him to jail. It's believed that the ex-husband fabricated a story about being threatened by Phillips. People close to Phillips say that he was not a violent person and he was looking forward to rebuilding a relationship with his daughter and grandchildren.

Fugitive events

Phillips was being held in Erie County jail for a parole violation, but escaped April 2, 2006 and was on the run until September 6, 2006. He escaped by cutting through the corrugated metal roof of the facility's kitchen using a can opener.

He is believed to have stolen numerous vehicles and broken into several cabins across Western New York and Northern Pennsylvania. Police believe that at some point, he used a stolen vehicle to travel as far away as eastern Tennessee. It is rumored that he went to Tennessee in mid August and stole license plates to help him evade police.

This is highly unlikely, however, since Phillips was spotted in Niagara County, New York during this time. Forty one guns were stolen from a gun store in a burglary believed to be connected to Phillips. Thirty three of these weapons have since been recovered from the trailer of a man who has since been arrested for aiding and abetting Phillips's flight.

During the earlier phases of the hunt, Phillips acquired somewhat of a folk hero status, with local businesses selling t-shirts saying "Where's Bucky?", "Run, Bucky, Run!", "Don't Shoot, Not Bucky," or "Got Bucky?" (a parody of Got Milk?), and a local restaurant selling a "Bucky Burger" (because it was "runny"). With Phillips's local roots, it was suspected that numerous friends and relatives might have been giving him shelter.

First shooting

On June 10, 2006, around 1 a.m., State Trooper Sean Brown was shot in Veteran, New York (approximately 70 miles south of Syracuse). He had seen a Ford Mustang which had been reported stolen, and as he approached the vehicle the driver, who was later identified as Phillips, shot at him and sped off. The officer was seriously injured with gunshot wounds to the abdomen.

On June 27, after reports of stolen vehicles and break-ins, police in Chautauqua County, New York found an abandoned backpack which contained items tied to Phillips, as well as the .38 caliber handgun he had allegedly used in the June 10 incident.

On August 8, police were minutes behind Phillips after he was reported on the Tuscarora Indian Reservation in Niagara County, New York; however, he disappeared into the woods. On August 19, a policeman checking out a motorcycle with invalid tags chased Phillips into an apartment complex, and then discovered a group of people believed to have been hiding him for several days, who were arrested. Phillips, however, escaped once more.

Second shooting

When Phillips learned that the police would be detaining members of his family for questioning, he reportedly threatened them, warning them to stay away from his friends and family. During a stakeout of a related member's house on August 31 in the town of Pomfret in Chautauqua County, a second shooting took place.

Police believe Phillips pointed a high-powered rifle and shot two New York State Troopers: Donald Baker Jr., 38, and Joseph Longobardo, 32 (however the officers never saw their assailant and evidence has not yet been presented to tie Phillips with this shooting). Eleven total shots were fired.

Officer Baker was struck in the back and flown to Hamot Shock Trauma Center in Erie, PA, and Officer Longobardo was struck in the leg, severing an artery and was flown to Erie County Medical Center in Buffalo, NY.

On Sunday, September 3, 2006, Officer Longobardo died following a prior unsuccessful attempt to save his life by amputating his leg. On November 9, 2006, Baker was  released from Hamot and transferred by NYSP helicopter to Albany Medical Center to continue his recovery.

It was shortly after the second shooting that the reward for information leading to the arrest of Phillips topped $450,000.

Kasey Crowe, Phillip's ex-girlfriend and mother of his daughter, was immediately sent back to jail due to her bail being revoked. She was later released when the witness did not show up at her hearing.

Captured

Phillips was captured by Pennsylvania State Police at around 8:00 pm Eastern Daylight Time on Friday, September 8, 2006. Phillips was captured according to the AP without gunfire. He was captured in Warren County, Pennsylvania.

Phillips, who was hiding in a lightly wooded area at the time of his capture, was spotted by a Pennsylvania police officer from a distance, who relayed the message to the troopers in the immediate area. As the police officers methodically surrounded him, Phillips surrendered, with his hands up in the air.

He was reported having a "defeated look," by New York State Police Superintendent Wayne Bennett. Many of Bucky's supporters say that he only gave up because he had no weapons to fight back with. Earlier that day, Phillips had bailed out of a moving car while being chased by police, leaving his weapons and supplies behind.

Phillips was originally charged by U.S. Marshals with Interstate Flight to Avoid Prosecution. Federal authorities then waived their charges so New York State could proceed with Attempted Murder charges against Phillips as a result of the shooting of Trooper Sean Brown.

Numerous other state and federal charges are pending. Murder and a second Attempted Murder charges could be filed if evidence can tie Phillips with the shootings of Troopers Baker and Longobardo.

It was announced on September 13 that New York State Police found a .308 rifle on September 10 in the woods where Phillips was believed to have spent time before his capture on September 8. Forensic tests are currently being conducted on the weapon.

On November 29, 2006, Phillips pleaded guilty (or, in his own words, "guilty as hell") to charges of aggravated murder (for the shooting of Joseph Longobardo) and attempted aggravated murder (for the shooting of Donald Baker Jr. and Sean Brown).

On December 19 he was sentenced in Chautauqua County Court to life without parole for shooting and killing Trooper Longobardo and 40 years to life for shooting and wounding Trooper Baker.

On December 20 he was sentenced in Chemung County Court to 40 years to life for shooting and wounding Trooper Brown. He is serving his sentence at Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora, New York, the state prison farthest from his family.

Controversial police behavior

The media reported a great deal of local dissatisfaction with the way law enforcement officials conducted the manhunt, claiming illegal searches, overtly harassing behavior, and a general attitude of belligerence on the part of the investigators.

Timeline

  • April 2: Ralph "Bucky" Phillips, who has spent 20 of the past 23 years in state prison, escapes from the Alden Correctional Facility in Erie County near Buffalo, cutting through the kitchen ceiling with a can opener.
     

  • April - June: During this time, police suspect Phillips is related to several breakins at hunting cabins in Erie, Allegany and Cattaraugus counties. A pickup truck stolen in Allegany County ends up in Ohio where another vehicle is stolen, and authorities suspect Phillips is involved. Phillips is allegedly spotted by residents in the areas around Sinclairville, Stockton, Randolph, Great Valley and Bradford, PA. Police speculate that Phillips' relatives are staging crimes to distract them and throw them off his trail.
     

  • June 10: State Trooper Sean Brown is shot in the abdomen during a traffic stop near Elmira in southern New York. State police say they're looking for Phillips as a "person of interest."
     

  • June 15: Police continue scouring the Elmira-Binghamton area, but set up checkpoints in Pomfret in Chautauqua County, since Phillips has significant ties to the area.
     

  • June 20: Phillips is believed to have stolen a Dodge Caravan in the town of Hancock, east of Binghamton.
     

  • June 25: Brad Horton is mistaken for Phillips and shot four times and killed by a New York State trooper. The trooper claimed he was being dragged and fired the shots because his life was endangered. The case is currently under review by a grand jury.
     

  • June 26: The Dodge Caravan stolen in Hancock is found in the town of Sheridan, and police believe Phillips is on the loose in northern Chautauqua County.
     

  • June 29: Police drop a dragnet around Cassadaga.
     

  • July: "Bucky Burgers" and T-shirts saying "Where's Bucky?" or "Got Bucky?" are offered for sale in Phillips' native Chautauqua County in western New York as manhunt focuses there.
     

  • July 8: A firearm found in the town of Charlotte is linked to the June 10 shooting of Brown.
     

  • July 13: State Police double the reward for helping catch Phillips to $50,000. Wounded trooper Sean Brown visits Chautauqua County to ‘‘boost morale.‘‘ DA Foley says the Horton case is still under investigation, but will likely go to a grand jury.
     

  • July 16: A burglary near Randolph is linked to Phillips. The manhunt is shifted to Cattaraugus County and a command post is established at Randolph Central School. State Police maintain their Fredonia command post.
     

  • Late July: Police close their Randolph command post and largely abandon their Cattaraugus County operations.
     

  • Aug. 8: A car stolen in Olean is recovered in Niagara County and linked to Phillips. Police abandon Chautauqua County.
     

  • Aug. 9: State Police report two confirmed sightings of Phillips and release a fresh photo of him looking into the camera from under a camouflage baseball hat. Police do not say how they obtained the photo. The photo is taken in Niagara County near the Tuscarora Indian Reservation.
     

  • Aug. 19: Phillips is spotted in Cassadaga. Police arrest three Cassadaga residents for helping him. They are Natasha Berg, Timothy Seekings, and Alice Kelley. Police once again begin concentrating on Chautauqua County. A trooper follows a motorcycle with no inspection sticker to the apartment, and the rider is later identified as Phillips. He escaped out a rear window of the building.
     

  • Aug. 24: Three more people, including former girlfriend Kasey Crowe and daughter Patrina Wright, are accused of harboring Phillips. Wright is charged with child endangerment. Her three children, including an infant, are removed from her custody.
     

  • Aug. 28: State Police call Phillips a suspect in the theft of several weapons, including high-powered rifles, from a Chautauqua County gun shop over the weekend and the theft of car a few miles away.
     

  • Aug 30: Pennsylvania State Police find 35 of 41 stolen guns at a residence in Ludlow, PA, 20 miles south of the New York border.
     

  • Aug. 31: Two state troopers are shot sniper-style and critically wounded outside Crowe's home in the rural town of Pomfret in Chautauqua County. They are helicoptered out by state police aviation. Todd Nelson of Ludlow, Pa., is accused of harboring Phillips for 11 days. Wright's children are returned to her custody.
     

  • Sept. 1: State Police say Phillips is the prime suspect in the shootings. State Police Superintendent Wayne Bennett orders another 75 troopers to help with the manhunt. The reward for his arrest jumps to $225,000.
     

  • Sept. 3: Trooper Joseph Longobardo dies at Erie County Medical Center, a day after one of his legs was amputated.
     

  • Sept. 4: Police from around western New York join troopers in the manhunt. Hunters are told to stay out of the woods.
     

  • Sept. 5: Children returning to school in the search area hold recess and sports practice indoors while troopers continue checking cars at roadblocks.
     

  • Sept. 6: U.S. marshals name Phillips to their "15 Most Wanted" list.
     

  • Sept. 7: Phillips is added to the FBI's 10 Most Wanted Fugitives list. Nearly 400 troopers, joined by federal and local police, search for Phillips. Announced rewards for helping catch Phillips top $400,000.
     

  • Sept. 8: After a stolen car is pulled over early in the morning near the Pennsylvania-New York line, a man believed to be Phillips runs into the woods. As many as three cars are stolen as the chase leads into Pennsylvania. Authorities evacuate a golf course near the state line in Russell, Pa., where shots are fired. Local, county, state and federal officers, some with dogs, search for Phillips. Phillips surrenders to Pennsylvania State Police about 8 p.m., walking out of a field with his hands up.
     

  • Sept. 9: Phillips is charged with eight counts, including attempted aggravated murder, first-degree attempted murder and second-degree attempted murder, in Chemung County in connection with the shooting of a state trooper on June 10 that intensified a five-month manhunt. There is not enough evidence to charge him with the August 31 shootings. The unlawful flight to avoid prosecution charge was waived at the request of United States Attorney Terrance Flynn. This clears the way for the more serious state charges.
     

  • Sept. 10: State troopers recover a .308 rifle in the woods near the field where Phillips was captured.
     

  • Sept. 19: Daniel De Federicis, president of the Police Benevolent Association of the New York State Troopers, releases a letter claiming that the manhunt was, "poorly planned, poorly organized, poorly led and poorly executed" and demands an independent investigation of the search.
     

  • Nov. 18: Phillips claims that guards at the Chemung County Jail are mistreating him due to his notoriety. In a six page letter to the Buffalo News, he details many abuses, including provoking him with obscenities, leaving the TV on at night so he can't sleep, watching him shower, and denying him routine privileges. Chemung County Sheriff Christopher Moss denies the claims. Moss adds that Phillips is a model prisoner, but is under surveillance at all times because he is considered an escape risk.
     

  • Nov. 29: Phillips pleads guilty in Chemung County Court to attempted murder regarding the June shooting of Trooper Brown. He then pleaded guilty in Chautauqua County Court to the murder and attempted murder of Troopers Longobardo and Baker, respectively.
     

  • Nov. 30: Phillips pleads "guilty as hell" in Erie County court to claims he broke out of the Erie County Correctional Facility in Alden, NY.
     

  • Dec. 19: Phillips is sentenced to life imprisonment in Chautauqua County Court for the murder and attempted murder of Troopers Longobardo and Baker, respectively. He is then sentenced to 25 years to life in Erie County Court on the escape charges.


Former fugitive 'Bucky' Phillips arraigned

USA Today.com

September 10, 2006

HORSEHEADS, N.Y. — A former fugitive suspected of fatally shooting a state trooper and wounding two others made his first court appearances Saturday, hours after surrendering in a field over the Pennsylvania state line following a five-month manhunt.

Captured fugitive Ralph "Bucky" Phillips was arraigned on eight counts in Chemung County Court this afternoon in connection with the June 10 shooting of state Trooper Sean M. Brown, who was shot in the town of Veteran after he and his partner approached a stopped car in the early morning hours of June 10.

Phillips, 44, was charged with:

• Attempted aggravated murder.

• First-degree attempted murder.

• Second-degree attempted murder.

• Second-degree criminal possession of a weapon.

• Two counts of third-degree criminal possession of a weapon.

• Third-degee criminal possession of stolen property.

• Fourth-degree possession of stolen property.

Phillips was first brought to Chemung County shortly before 1 p.m. Saturday where he was escorted into the New York State Police barracks in Horseheads after being a 4-minute arraignment earlier in federal court in Buffalo on a charge of unlawful flight to avoid prosecution. The judge agreed to turn Phillips over to state police to face the charge of attempted murder in Chemung County, where he appeared for about 15 minutes in county court.

New York's longest manhunt ended Friday after two stolen cars, one dog with a keen sense of smell, a sharp-eyed sheriff's deputy and the roar of helicopter propellers helped flush out one of the FBI's "10 Most Wanted" fugitives.

Shortly after 8 p.m. ET Friday, Phillips emerged from a lightly wooded field where, with his hands in the air, he peacefully surrendered to authorities as SWAT teams surrounded him.

Not a shot was fired by Phillips on Friday as police closed in on the jail escapee, finally capturing him in an area along Cable Hollow Road in Warren County, Pa., near the New York border.

The capture came at nightfall, when state police Superintendent Wayne Bennett had been concerned the search would become more dangerous and there was a chance Phillips could slip through the square-mile perimeter that had formed just south of the New York border.

"It's like closing your hand. It gets smaller and smaller," Bennett said of the search area. "You have to pull it together. You have to be on the same page, and we were all on the same page today."

Bennett said Phillips knew it was over when police moved in.

"There was a helicopter hovering over his head and a SWAT team down the woods line. He knew the game was up," he said. "As far as the state police are concerned, you can't shoot one of ours. We will track you down. We will hunt you down. Sooner or later, they take a last look over their shoulder and the game is up. You can't be shooting at the people who protect society."

Phillips was unarmed and uninjured when he was taken into custody by the Pennsylvania State Police after a Warren County sheriff's deputy with binoculars spotted him.

The news that Phillips had been brought in alive, although he had previously threatened "suicide by cop," was of importance to slain Trooper Joseph Longobardo's father, Bennett said.

"It closes a certain chapter in the book for the (Longobardo) family and for us," Bennett said.

The capture closes one part of the investigation for police, but there is much more to do to prepare to take Phillips to trial.

"(Phillips) was the person who would make the choice of how this would end. Now this miserable creature will suffer for the rest of his life in the New York prison system," he said.

Police gave the following account of Friday's events:

At 1:55 a.m., two Warren County sheriff's deputies, armed with the knowledge that Phillips likes to travel at night in stolen cars, attempted to pull over a stolen vehicle.

Deputies Dan Michaels and Kimio Nelson received a report about a silver Honda stolen from a home and soon saw the car speeding north, Warren County Sheriff Larry Kopko told the Times Observer of Warren, Pa., on Friday.

As they gave chase, the driver failed to make a sharp turn, lost control and went into trees, jumped from the car and ran into the woods, Kopko said.

Twenty-five minutes later, another car was stolen from the Warren area and the chase was on again when police began to follow the car to the New York-Pennsylvania border.

Near Frewsburg, N.Y., police said, Phillips dove out of the stolen vehicle as it was moving and fled into the woods.

At around 9:10 a.m., two New York state troopers with a dog approached Phillips from behind, and Phillips turned with a pistol in his left hand. Police said one of the troopers fired several shots. Phillips did not return fire and ran. No blood was found at the scene.

About 3 p.m., a civilian and an officer spotted Phillips. Police said he was spotted running and crawling, what Bennett called "acts of desperation."

Police then formed a perimeter along a wooded area about a half-mile from the New York-Pennsylvania border and stationed officers along all the roads leading in and out of the area.

Police recovered both stolen vehicles, and news reports said identifying articles were discovered that linked the vehicles to Phillips, including a U.S. Marshals wanted poster and a camouflage hat that Phillips was wearing in the photograph taken of the fugitive on Aug. 8 on the Tuscarora Indian Reservation.

Phillips was escorted by several U.S. Marshals vehicles and a helicopter immediately following his surrender. He was put in leg irons, waist chains and handcuffs, and the look of defeat was on his face as he was taken into custody, Bennett said.

"I told you he had to keep looking over his shoulder and we'd be there, and tonight we were," Bennett said.

 

 

 
 
 
 
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