MISSOULA – FBI agents from Coeur d’Alene helped search a 30-square-mile swath of rugged forest in northwest Montana on Monday for a former militia leader and survivalist who officials say fired on deputies and previously told police “he wasn’t going to be taken down like last time.”
David Burgert, 47, fired at Missoula County sheriff’s deputies along a logging trail Sunday after leading them on a slow-speed chase near the town of Lolo on U.S. Highway 12. The deputies returned fire – no one was hurt – before Burgert grabbed gear from the Jeep and fled on foot into the woods, said Missoula County Undersheriff Mike Dominick.
Burgert may have planned the attack, Dominick told the Associated Press on Monday. Authorities found ammunition packed inside the Jeep’s engine compartment and in another vehicle associated with Burgert, as well as two stolen rifles and a magazine of handgun ammunition on the ground near where he fled, Dominick said.
“He was prepared for a confrontation,” Dominick said. “It was not a high-speed chase, he drove purposely onto the logging road and he engaged the deputies with one to three shots.”
He described Burgert as a survivalist who is no stranger to the backwoods and who may be in possession of a third vehicle, possibly a tan or red Jeep model.
Tactical agents from the FBI and agents from the U.S. Marshals Service, Missoula police, Missoula County sheriff’s officers, as well as law officers from the U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management and the Montana National Guard were looking for Burgert in a rugged, sparsely populated area of Lolo National Forest west of Lolo, Dominick said. A National Guard helicopter and a police dog were brought in to assist the searchers, totaling 65 personnel in all.
Agents from Coeur d’Alene traveled to the area Sunday, said Don Robinson, agent in charge of the Coeur d’Alene office.
“We had a request from Missoula County for support,” Robinson said. “Hopefully we find him in whatever state he’s in quickly, and it’s over.”
Burgert is the former leader of a Flathead County militia group known as Project 7. The group allegedly plotted to assassinate local officials, go to war with the National Guard and overthrow the federal government.
Burgert served time in the Federal Bureau of Prisons on weapons charges before being released on probation. Before his sentencing, he was diagnosed with paranoid personality disorder.
Last week, he was stopped by the Montana Highway Patrol for a moving violation. He told patrolmen then “he wasn’t going to be taken down like last time” and that “it would take a SWAT team” to bring him in, Dominick said.