The two-day manhunt for a Florida man ended Wednesday morning at the FBI office in Tampa, when 55-year-old “doomsday prepper” Martin Winters surrendered to authorities. According to the Tampa Bay Times, a wet, footsore and weary Winters gave up his freedom for the promise of some dry shoes, Gatorade, a couple of cheeseburgers and some French fries.
Winters is the head of a group known as the River Otter Preppers, survivalists who believe in hoarding weapons and supplies ahead of an apocalyptic event foretold in the Christian Bible’s final book, the Book of Revelations. An undercover FBI agent infiltrated the group and spent months building a case against Winters, who the agent said was planning a bloody, heavily-armed “last stand” against law enforcement officials.
“We’re glad to report that Mr. Winters did the right thing,” FBI spokesman David Couvertier told reporters. “We were hoping for a peaceful resolution, and today we got that.”
A federal grand jury handed down an indictment two weeks ago naming Winters and five others on charges of designing and building destructive devices without a permit and other charges. Winters invoked his right to remain silent on Wednesday when he appeared before Magistrate Judge Thomas Wilson.
Tampa’s WTSP reported on Tuesday that authorities were offering a $5,000 reward to anyone who could provide information leading to Winters’ capture. Federal agents said Winters was wanted on charges of bomb-making and stockpiling weapons.
Winters was represented in court by defense attorney Ellis Faught Jr., who told the judge that the FBI agent had witnessed nothing more than tough talk among friends.
“This is not just talk,” the Timesquoted Wilson as saying in court. “There were, in fact, destructive devices found and sold.”
An FBI affidavit reported that Winters had set multiple lethal booby traps around his home, along with caches of weapons designed to fight off and kill federal agents or other law enforcement personnel.
Authorities attempted to apprehend Winters on Monday, but he fled the scene, prompting the offer of bounty money.
Winters’ 26-year-old daughter Tracey Winters contacted defense attorney Faught on Wednesday morning at 7:00 a.m., asking him to meet her at his law firm’s offices. The two then collected Winters and took him straight to the FBI.
“I just wanted to make sure to get to the FBI office as fast as we could without incident,” said Faught.
David Ferguson is an editor at Raw Story. He was previously writer and radio producer in Athens, Georgia, hosting two shows for Georgia Public Broadcasting and blogging at Firedoglake.com and elsewhere. He is currently working on a book.
Raw Story is a progressive news site that focuses on stories often ignored in the mainstream media. While giving coverage to the big stories of the day, we also bring our readers' attention to policy, politics, legal and human rights stories that get ignored in an infotainment culture driven solely by pageviews.
Founded in 2004, Raw Story reaches 9 million unique readers per month and serves more than 30 million pageviews.