Police investigating ex-militia leader after shootout with Montana police
Police say David Burgert fired a handgun at sheriff's deputies before fleeing into the Montana woods Sunday.
June 14th, 2011
02:08 PM ET

Police investigating ex-militia leader after shootout with Montana police

[Updated at 7:15 p.m. ET] Investigators searching for a former militia leader accused of shooting at sheriff's deputies in Montana after leading police on a low-speed chase Sunday may be driving a tan Jeep Cherokee, authorities say.

Authorities are looking for David Burgert, who they say led police on a low-speed chase in a blue Jeep Cherokee on Sunday before firing shots at deputies, abandoning the vehicle and fleeing into the woods outside Missoula.

The Missoula County Sheriff's Office says the chase began after Burgert ran a stop sign near Lolo and failed to stop for two deputies when they turned on their lights and siren.

Investigators have said previously that Burgert may have stashed another vehicle in the wilderness, and they now say he may have had access to a tan Jeep Cherokee.

[Updated at 2:08 p.m. ET] Investigators have lost the trail of a convicted militia member who melted into the remote and rugged backcountry of western Montana after allegedly shooting at sheriff's deputies, a Missoula County sheriff's commander said Tuesday.

Officials scaled back their search when dogs lost David Burgert's scent, Undersheriff Mike Dominick said, adding that the operation is now more of an investigation than a manhunt.

Authorities have been searching for Burgert since Sunday when, they say, he led police on a low-speed chase in a Jeep Cherokee before firing shots at deputies and abandoning the vehicle.

Burgert apparently was prepared to evade a manhunt and may have stashed another vehicle someplace in the wilderness, police say.

[Posted 12:53 p.m. ET] The FBI has joined the manhunt for a former militia leader after he shot at sheriff’s deputies and fled into the Montana woods outside Missoula, according to police.

Law enforcement agencies, the National Guard and the U.S. Forest Service expanded the search for David Burgert, who once led a Flathead County militia known as Project 7, to parts of western Montana on Tuesday, the third day of the search, according to CNN affiliate KPAX-TV.

After finding ammunition, food and camping gear in Burgert's abandoned Jeep Cherokee, authorities are convinced he is prepared to stay in hiding for a while, Missoula County Undersheriff Mike Dominick told the Missoulian newspaper.

Burgert, 47, is a 6-foot-2, 230-pound white male with brown hair and eyes, police told local media. He was last seen wearing a blue shirt and fanny pack and may be driving a tan or red 1987 Jeep Wagoneer with the license plate 4-26514A.

Police say he is believed to be armed, perhaps with a handgun and rifle, and is considered dangerous.

The manhunt began Sunday morning when deputies stopped to check on a vehicle on U.S. Highway 12 near Lolo. The driver of the vehicle fled and officers gave chase, police told local media.

Employees at the Lumberjack Saloon in Lolo said that Burgert seemed calm and, with a police cruiser on his tail, slowed down to wave at patrons on the establishment’s patio.

“We could hear sirens coming and pretty soon I could see this Jeep Cherokee coming up the road ... with the highway patrol behind him,” Stan Jones told KPAX. “As he got closer to us, he stuck his arm out the window and waved to us, kind of like he was on a Sunday drive.”

Police say Burgert wasn’t so friendly a few minutes later when he pulled over near a creek, jumped out of his vehicle and fired a handgun at deputies, Dominick told the Missoulian.

The deputies fired back but missed, and Burgert calmly removed gear from his vehicle and fled on foot into the woods, the undersheriff told the paper. No one was injured in the exchange of gunfire.

The Montana Department of Corrections says Burgert was sentenced in 2002 for bail jumping and in 1983 for theft. He is on probation, according to the department.

He was released from prison in March 2010, according to federal Bureau of Prisons records.

KPAX and other media reported that Burgert and his Project 7 militia were involved in a 2002 plot to kill police officers and judges in hopes of sparking a revolution that would battle the National Guard and eventually NATO.

Authorities found thousands of rounds of ammunition, bombs, survival gear and weapons, including machine guns, at his home, Reuters reported in 2002. They also found information about police officers, judges, prosecutors and their families, and Burgert was arrested after a daylong standoff, the wire service said.

“Apparently, on a certain day, by going out and killing people, they were going to trigger a revolution that would bring down the U.S. government,” then-Flathead County Sheriff Jim Dupont told Reuters.

Burgert was first sentenced in 2004 to 10 years in prison. On appeal, he was resentenced in 2007 to eight years and four months on the firearms charges. His sentence included three years of supervised release, KPAX reported.

Residents in the Lolo area have been taking precautions because of the manhunt. Likening the incident to a past mountain lion problem, they say they are keeping doors locked and guns loaded and are remaining vigilant, even if it’s just to check the mail, according to the station.

Thomas Arnone of Alberton, about 13 miles northwest of Lolo, told KPAX he had at least two reasons for feeling safe.

“A. I have two really big dogs. B. I have a shotgun and so that always helps,” he said. “And then with the amount of bears and wildlife that are up on that mountain - wolves, coyotes he’s not gonna be there too long.”

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Filed under: Courts • Justice • Militia • Montana • U.S.
soundoff (203 Responses)
  1. Lixi

    ...sorry, I was confused, I thought they were talking about Bill Ayers......

    June 14, 2011 at 7:17 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Jack Ass

    Rambo was an ex green beret, who was savy with a knife, not a fat redneck with machine guns and a tent

    June 14, 2011 at 7:38 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Peter Beck

    He took a few potshots at sheriff's deputies. I think this dude knows his way around firearms enough to have made those shots count if he wanted to. Sound to me like suicide by cop, but he just wants to make them work for it.

    June 14, 2011 at 7:46 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Opt

    Tea Party 2012!

    June 14, 2011 at 8:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • Truth Slayer

      Just because you own a handgun doesnt make you a member of the Tea party you A hole he is a Patriot sworn to defend the United States All our Able bodied soldiers are fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan the Only ones left on the homefront to fight are the teenagers and old men our country is just right for the picking , Cuba is 14 miles from Miami, Russia is 14 miles from Alaska they only need 2 Battalions to Invade and cut the oil pipeline and divert the oil To Moscow, Our borders are unprotected thousands of Mexicans invade every day. Wake up America!

      June 14, 2011 at 9:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • Cy

      Truth Slayer or Grammar Slayer?

      You be the judge...

      14 miles to Russia and Cuba? Please pay attention next year in school. I am pretty sure you will study geography in 5th grade in most states.

      June 14, 2011 at 11:42 pm | Report abuse |
  5. JustHuman1951

    Hey Miggy...thanks for being so succinct and funny too!

    June 14, 2011 at 8:06 pm | Report abuse |
  6. mike hunt

    Real life Rambo. only fat.

    June 14, 2011 at 8:21 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Litterboxrox

    Have you checked Denny's?

    June 14, 2011 at 8:26 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Ronald Raygun

    shouldnt he be considered a terrorist? or is militia a nice word to call a white guy terrorist?

    June 14, 2011 at 9:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • Independent

      I believe a terrorist is a person belonging to an unofficial group that uses violence to achieve political goals. Really who knows why this guy took shots against cops.. It's not like he's the only one who belongs to a group that engages in violence. By your definition inner city gangs could be called terrorists, but they are rarely classified as domestic terrorists. Our government uses violence to reach political goals too, so I guess if you don't like the politics then they are terrorists. I was always confused about militias and the National Guard.. I thought a state's official militia was the national guard, but there are other militias that are not government ran, but have many ex military people in them.

      June 14, 2011 at 9:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • redsled

      if he takes out the u.n. i will call him HERO!

      June 14, 2011 at 9:18 pm | Report abuse |
  9. redsled

    why the national guard and nato?hey,if he can destroy the u.n. and george soros he's my hero.

    June 14, 2011 at 9:11 pm | Report abuse |
  10. redsled

    my wife's step father told me never trust a cop.he was white.and a retired cop.k9 unit.lets all hope this guy considers the u.n. an enemy.and lets all hope he succeeds.and all i have to say for myself is ta daaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!

    June 14, 2011 at 9:16 pm | Report abuse |
  11. gung hoe

    This is t total bs the boys with a badge either just wanted him or was told by our socialist leaders to remove him out from the public just they didnt anticipate the outcome they got and when will you people give it up about the teapartiers oh thats right most of yall are for that dollar a gallon tax obama wants to put on gas

    June 14, 2011 at 9:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • wobbles

      Or maybe he just ran a stop sign then refused to pull over, then shot at cops. Your tinfoil hat is screwed on too tight. The guy would be at home beside the fire with a traffic ticket if he had not been a psycho.

      June 14, 2011 at 9:37 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Hooligan

    There is a fine line between "patriot" and "terrorist"

    that line is whatever the law enforcement agencies deem fit.

    June 14, 2011 at 9:51 pm | Report abuse |
  13. sara

    So it really makes me laugh that some crazy guy does something and now everyone wants to blame it on Sara Palin or NRA. Or even the police for doing their job and checking on a citizen that may be in distress. The fact that he has his own free will and is able to make choices between right or wrong just does not seem to be the issue. I think if we all stopped turning everything into a political issue the fact that he is just whack and made a horrible choice to break the law is the heart of the problem. Hopefully he gets caught and is punished for breaking the law and not made into a political debate. Our country has many more important issues!!

    June 14, 2011 at 11:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jabberwocky

      You have a conflict of interest.. Your name is Sara.. You spelled Sarah Palin as Sara Palin. I hear Prozac works wonders.. You're not Sarah Palin.. Say it with me..

      June 15, 2011 at 12:06 am | Report abuse |
  14. saywhat

    In March of 2010 members of the terrorist group Christian Soldiers (Hutaree) were arrested by FBI in Michigan for plotting to use WMDs and kill federal officials. After a mock trial they were quietly let go by a judge. The MLK Day parade foiled terror bombing plot is another recent case. There are many of these 'militias' out there in good old US , heavily armed and trained to rise up against the Govt. any time they see fit.
    Not a peep from us Americans who have been brain washed and conditioned to think that muslims only can be terrorists and we should fear them.

    June 15, 2011 at 10:52 am | Report abuse |
  15. Rob

    Why do these far right militia types always look like dumb stupid dufus bubbas? How come NONE of them ever look cultured, intelligent and educated? They're always overweight, lower lip kind of hanging out with a dazed look in their eyes.

    June 16, 2011 at 10:25 am | Report abuse |
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