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Suspect in massive manhunt makes contact with camper

The Transylvania County Sheriff’s Office says a camper had a brush with Phillip Michael Stroupe, the subject of a massive manhunt in the area that has closed roads and trails. (Photo credit: VINELink)

Sunday morning, campers waited to be allowed back into the Pisgah National Forest to collect their gear and even cars they had left behind, when they been evacuated due to a massive, multi-agency manhunt.

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Phillip Michael Stroupe II is still at large.

Amy Stepp was in town to camp with friends. She told News 13 she was waiting to be able to go back into the forest to get her Jeep.

Stepp said she woke up to law enforcement telling her to leave. She said she was scared--and then became worried when she found out what happened to her friend.

“One of the guys who was camping with us said he saw the guy when he was fishing down by the river, he saw the gun and tattoos, he offered him a granola bar because he didn’t really know what to do,” Stepp said.

Her friend “seems fine” after the exchange, she added. Authorities had previously said that the camper had been held hostage, but then revised their statement to say that this is not the case.

The sheriff's office said Stroupe made contact with the camper in the Yellow Gap area, and displayed a handgun, but did not take the person hostage or point the gun at him.

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Phillip Michael Stroupe II is the subject of a massive manhunt in the area that has closed roads and trails.

“We’re exhausting every resource we can at this point,” Captain Jeremy L. Queen with the Transylvania County Sheriff’s Office said.

He said the public’s safety is their number one priority, and with thousands of tourists and visitors in the forest, it was all hands on deck.

“We’re thankful for all the help we’re getting from multiple agencies,” Queen said, explaining that SWAT teams from the Asheville Police Department had come in to help, the North Carolina Highway Patrol was using its helicopter, and K-9 units from multiple agencies were helping, all in an effort to capture Stroupe, who is believed to be armed and dangerous, and has a history of violent behavior and resisting law enforcement.

Just last month, Stroupe was accused of committing an armed robbery in Weaverville, and faced charges including assault with a deadly weapon on a government official.

Authorities say Stroupe ran into a Buncombe County deputy's vehicle with the vehicle he was driving. Authorities also accused Stroupe of possessing a stolen 2009 Honda Civic.

Stroupe has outstanding warrants in Buncombe County for kidnapping, and also has pending charges in Yancey County.

Queen said the decision to evacuate parts of the forest and shut down roads going into the forest was made when they realized the suspect was armed.

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“The confirmation that he had a firearm and was willing to use it, was why we made the decision to shut down the forest,” said Queen.

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