Officials have closed off more of Pisgah National Forest as they approach the fourth day of a search for a man considered to be armed and dangerous.
The entire area east of Highway 276 and south of the Blue Ridge Parkway on the Pisgah Ranger District, including all campgrounds and campsites in the area, is now closed, the Nation Forest Service announced Tuesday morning.
Roads and trails in the area of Mills River, Yellow Gap Road, Turkey Pen Gap, Trace Ridge and Wash Creek area have been closed since Sunday. North Mills River Campground, Wash Creek Group Horse Camp and all roadside camping in the area will remain closed until further notice, the Forest Service said.
Highway 276 remains closed from the Pisgah Ranger District office to the parkway. The Pisgah ranger station visitor center and Sycamore Flats picnic area have reopened, but other destinations remain closed along the highway, including Sliding Rock, Cradle of Forestry, and Looking Glass Falls. Davidson River Road (#475) is now closed at Gloucester Gap.
Phillip Michael Stroupe II, 39, of Weaverville, has been at large since Saturday, when he was was identified as the driver of a vehicle matching the description of one involved in a breaking and entering in Mills River, near the border of Henderson and Transylvania counties. He is described as a white man, about 5-foot-8, with a shaved head and distinct tattoo across the front of this neck.
Stroupe refused to stop when a Transylvania County Sheriff’s Office deputy attempted to pull him over on Avery’s Creek Road, and a chase commenced, reports said.
During the chase, Stroupe reportedly stopped long enough to rob a person of a mountain bike at gunpoint. The chase continued and later blocked the road with his vehicle and rode the bike into the woods.
In an update Monday night, the sheriff’s office said special response teams and tactical officers remained in the forest.
The State Bureau of Investigation, the State Highway Patrol (including helicopter support), the Brevard Police Department, the U.S. Forest Service Law Enforcement, the Henderson County Sheriff’s Office (including a special response team), and the Buncombe County Sheriff’s Office were assisting in the manhunt.
“Although we are (disappointed) that we have not located the suspect, our hopes are renewed by the thoughts, prayers, and well wishes from the community we serve,” the department wrote.
Stroupe has outstanding warrants for kidnapping in Buncombe County, and pending charges for identity theft and eluding arrest in a motor vehicle in Yancey County, according to state records.