The FBI has captured Martin Winters, 55, of Valrico. He escaped agents on Monday as they descended on land where he’s accused of burying weapons as part of his doomsday survival plans.
The FBI will hold a news conference at 12:30 p.m.
Watch it live here: http://wfts.tv/1jGWUtl
Winters, 55, is leader of the River Otter Preppers, a group preparing for the end of the world as prophesied in the Book of Revelation, according to the FBI.
The group stockpiled food but also illegally-purchased AR-15s, which Winters buried in barrels to access later, just one of his strategies for an imagined "last stand" against the government, according to the FBI. Winters is also accused of building illegal destructive devices out of metal pipes.
"Crazy," said neighbor Terrell Crosby. "I hope they get him -- I really do."
FBI spokesman Dave Couvertier on Tuesday gave a more detailed description of the agency’s attempt to contact Winters and how he escaped.
When agents tried to stop his vehicle Monday in Plant City, Winters almost struck two officers while trying to speed away, Couvertier said. Some of the agents followed Winters but did not try to keep pace with him.
“Our personnel did not try to pursue at that rate, so that created a distance between our units and Mr. Winters,” Couvertier said.
Agents lost sight of his vehicle multiple times and later found it abandoned and overheated, he said. Steam seeped from the engine, an indication of the speed he traveled to flee agents.
"All these vehicles start piling in here," said Mindy Murray, who saw law enforcement arrive to search for Winters. "I'm scared to death."
Couvertier said the FBI wants to end the search peacefully. But the chance that Winters, described as a skilled survivalist, may be accessing hidden weapons or receiving help from friends is a concern.
“This is being blown out of proportion based on his actions,” Couvertier said.
“We continue to hear that Mr. Winters is a good person, that he provides for his neighbors and friends,” he continued. “We hope Mr. Winters doesn’t disappoint them.”
On Tuesday, retired FBI agent and former SWAT leader Brian Kensel weighed in on the manhunt for Martin saying he fears he won't go down without a fight.
"Every arrest we make has that potential, but in this case that potential is a little higher than normal," said Kensel. "Saying 'FBI stop! Put your hands up, you're arrested' means nothing if you don't care if you live or die."
Anyone with information is asked to contact the FBI Tampa Office at 813-253-1000.