Manhunt Underway for Armed Militia Leader David Burgert

| by Kate Wharmby Seldman

Police are combing a Montana national forest for the former head of an anti-government militia after he shot at them and fled.

Last week, David Burgert led Missoula County police on a slow speed car chase for 30 miles along a logging trail. The police had observed him driving recklessly at a rest stop, and when they tried to pull him over, he drove away. Burgert then pulled over onto a side road and traded gunfire with cops before escaping into the forest.

He's thought to be heavily armed -- police are almost certain he has a handgun and a rifle, and they suspect he is stashing more weapons in a car he may be driving. He was carrying a backpack full of gear when he ran into the forest.

When police searched Burgert's home and cars, they found more guns and stores of ammunition. They believe Burgert preplanned his escape into the woods, and that he may have further stores of food and ammo, as well as another car, stashed in the forest somewhere.

The 47-year-old Burgert is an ex-Marine and the former head of Project 7, an antigovernment militia group that the FBI labeled a domestic terrorist organization. The organization aimed to kill police and local officials before targeting the federal government. Burgert, who has paranoid personality disorder, spent seven years in prison for possessing illegal weapons. 

Last week before Burgert fled and the manhunt began, a cop pulled Burgert's car over. During their interaction, Burgert reportedly told the highway patrol officer that "he wasn't going to be taken down like last time" and that "it would take a SWAT team" to bring him in.

Flathead County Sheriff Chuck Curry told Montana's Daily Inter Lake newspaper that Burgert's trail may have gone cold: he could have left the forest by now. "They do not necessarily think they have him contained in that area," Curry said.