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Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Troy James Knapp, mountain man of Utah

There is an admiration and respect in most of us for someone who has the skills to survive in the wild and live off the land and Troy James Knapp did it in spades.  For six years, he lived a lonely life in the freezing wilderness of Utah, travelling hundreds of miles in the snow with a rifle slung over his shoulder. He lived off the land and broke into remote cabins for shelter, food and guns, sometimes leaving a 'thank you' note, sometimes not.

If he hadn't panicked and fired at police right before he was arrested last year, he might not be heading to prison for ten years and six months. On Monday, Knapp agreed to a package of plea deals, closing dozens of criminal charges against him in seven Utah counties.  He will receive credit for the 14 months he has already spent in jail.

His attorneys said the weapons he stole were used for survival and protection against wild animals and never to "scare, threaten or use against citizens."  But they had to concede that he fired at federal agents who caught him.

In winter, Knapp spent time in snowbound cabins, sleeping in the owner's bed, eating their food and listening to their AM radio for updates about his manhunt.  In summer he went deep into the woods with a supply of guns, dehydrated food, radios, batteries and camping gear.

An article in Outside on 10 April 2013 reads:

On Monday, April Fool’s Day 2013, a 50-person task force that included members of seven county sheriff departments, the (DPS), Adult Probation and Parole, and a half-dozen federal agents from the U.S. Marshals Service, gathered at the Sanpete County Sheriff’s Department to strategize.

The next morning, April 2, just after midnight, the lawmen headed into Ferron Canyon in snowcats and on snowmobiles with two Utah DPS helicopters at the ready, then quietly took position on snowshoes in the frozen dark, even though they weren’t yet sure which of the cabins Knapp was inhabiting.
It was part of the plan that the racket from one of the helicopters would alert Knapp. It did. The first helicopter came in from the east; they could see Knapp on a cabin’s porch. “At about nine in the morning, Knapp is out chopping wood for his morning fire when this big-ass bird comes in over the trees,” U.S. Marshal Michael Wingert, the lead federal agent assigned to Knapp’s case, told me. “He grabs his rifle and shoots at the bird.”
Knapp, who was also armed with a handgun, squeezed off several rifle rounds. The men in the helicopter saw him reload. The fugitive strapped into his snowshoes, grabbed his rifle, and took off running to the south. After an exhausting 100-yard dash, he encountered Emery County Sheriff Greg Funk. Knapp raised his rifle. Funk fired and missed. Knapp broke back to the north and ran into a line of lawmen. Knapp realized he was heavily outgunned—and surrendered.
“You got me,” he told arresting officers. “Nice job.”

The cabin where Knapp was caught

"I don't hate people" Knapp said.  "I just don't like living with them."

And if that isn't a great plot for a movie, I don't know what is.