Seven months ago, Ralph "Bucky" Phillips surrendered to police after five months on the run. Fearing that he was about to spend years in prison instead of days, Phillips broke out of the Erie County Correctional Facility and began a life on the lam: breaking into unoccupied trailers to cook himself food, sleeping in piles of leaves to keep warm, and generally keeping a low profile. Bucky Phillips would likely have remained a low-priority target of law enforcement if he hadn't started shooting NY State Troopers. He shot one during a traffic stop and two others once a full-scale manhunt was underway (killing one of the latter).
What followed is a strange tale of personal antagonisms and hard-to-believe antics by Phillips as he literally taunted authorities unable to catch him. The New York Times sat down with the man now serving life in prison and got his account of life on the run.
Mr. Phillips said he was cooking someone’s deer sausage in a vacant camper he had broken into when he first saw Major Manning on television and took offense at his remarks. (It was unclear from a review of Major Manning’s statements at several news conferences exactly what he might have said that so angered the fugitive.)
From then on, Mr. Phillips said, he set out to humiliate the major. “What people didn’t understand: it was all about embarrassing one man,” he said.
Once, when he was coming out of the woods, he blindly happened upon two troopers. “I came out and bam! they were there,” he said. “It was like, ‘Whoa!’ ”
He fled back into the trees and led the pair deep into the woods, pausing and pretending to be winded to let them keep up before abandoning them. The Police Benevolent Association would later recount the incident in a letter written about the manhunt: “Two troopers became lost in the woods and a state helicopter had to be used to find them.”
Like those of many infamous outlaw heroes before him, we don't doubt that Bucky's story will be recounted with relish long after Phillips himself is gone, despite the fact that he is a murderer. It certainly is an interesting one.