FOREST LAKES, Ariz. - The Federal Bureau of Investigation has joined a manhunt for a person suspected of starting eight small fires and shooting at a U.S. Forest Service officer multiple times.
John Paxton, a spokesperson with the Coconino County Sheriff’s Office, said more than 100 spots were occupied at the campground when evacuations started on the Fourth of July because of the search.
Lights and sirens on Highway 260 were the scene after the search began for this man accused of arson and shooting at a federal officer, making people in the community, like Jeanne Butler, feel uneasy.
“A lunatic starting fires, yeah,” Butler said.
The Coconino County Sheriff’s Office said it all started Monday when eight small fires were found burning east of the Canyon Point Campground "that appeared or looked like they may have been intentionally set,” Paxton said.
Rob Engel said he owned a cabin in the area.
“Well the way the forest is right now, if he’s out setting fires, it’s our home up here. It’s very concerning,” Engel said.
Paxton said the morning of July 4, shots were fired.
“We’re thinking somewhere between five shots initially,” Paxton said.
On the other end of the gun was a U.S. Forest Service officer on patrol who said the suspect jumped up from behind a bush and he ran.
“Trying to get back to his rig, [he] fell down and heard two more shots,” Paxton said.
Paxton said then there were two more shots, this time from a shotgun. Luckily, the officer got away.
Investigators said the guy they were looking for was caught on surveillance video at a store just a short drive from the campground.
Several agencies, including the FBI, combed through businesses, neighborhoods and roads in the area, knowing this suspect was comfortable living in the woods and warning the public he was armed and dangerous.
Anyone forced to leave behind their RVs or camping equipment because of the evacuation can contact the Coconino County Sheriff’s Office at 928-774-4523 to find out how they can come back in to pick them up.