Search For Suspected Shooter, Arsonist Continues In Northeastern Arizona
Residents in northeastern Arizona kept their doors locked as word spread of an ongoing search for a suspected arsonist and gunman Wednesday.
By Thursday, Jon Paxton with the Coconino County Sheriff’s office said the intense search will scale back somewhat.
“We haven’t had any evidence that the suspect is still in the area,” said Paxton, who assured the search continues. “We’re going to have an enhanced uniform presence and then we’ll be utilizing some undercover officers also.”
For the past two days, dozens of officers from multiple agencies have handed out wanted posters to neighbors and businesses along the wooded areas between Payson and Heber.
It’s produced leads from Payson to Show Low. Judging from what witnesses have reported, Paxton said investigators believe, “He was probably living in the forest for the past couple of months.”
The wanted posters with a surveillance photo shows what appears to be an Hispanic man, medium height, last seen wearing a royal blue short-sleeve shirt over a long-sleeve white shirt.
No one has positively identified him, but Paxton urged witnesses to keep calling.
Many tips have come from residents in the nearby community of Forest Lakes off of State Route 260. Paxton said most callers have said they’ve seen the man, but did not feel threatened by him.
Witnesses reported he was quiet when he visited local restaurants and convenience stores in the area, “coming in, having coffee or just coming into the campgrounds to get water or use the bathroom,” said Paxton.
He warned, however, the man was last seen carrying a shotgun and a handgun, which investigators say he used to shoot at a U.S. Forest Service officer shortly after reportedly setting eight different fires near the Canyon Point Campground on Monday.
The campground remained closed Thursday and locals have reported tourists are avoiding the area near the half-way point between Kohl’s Ranch and the town of Heber.
Paxton said the targeted search around that area has now spread out from there. Anyone who sees the man or has information should call their local police and avoid confronting the man.