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Phillips says he 'enjoyed' life on lam

To hear Ralph "Bucky" Phillips tell it, he had the time of his life while on the lam last year.

"I enjoyed those few months more than I've enjoyed any other time in my life," Phillips told the News York Times last week in his first media interview since his capture Sept. 8.

Phillips expressed remorse for his fatal shooting of a state trooper, described a life on the run that stretched to West Virginia, and explained that his cat-and-mouse tactics while eluding the authorities were intended to humiliate Maj. Michael T. Manning, the commander of Troop A in Western New York, for what he considered disparaging remarks.

"It was all about embarrassing one man," Phillips told the Times.

Phillips is now serving a life sentence, after pleading guilty to shooting three state troopers, one fatally.

Phillips, 44, said he broke out of the Erie County Correctional facility on April 2, 2006, because he believed his parole for a drug conviction was going to be revoked and he would serve several more years in prison.

In reality, he was scheduled for release within a week. Had he known that at the time, Phillips said, he would have stayed put, declaring, "I'm not stupid."

During his time on the run, Phillips said he moved around constantly, usually at night, traveling in stolen cars and by foot.

"I did a lot of walking," he said. "I had blisters under my blisters."

He broke into unattended homes and campers, often slept in the woods, ate rabbits, fish, and -- at least once -- food out of a trash can.

When in Chautauqua County, Phillips said, he followed trooper activity on a police scanner. He traveled to Kentucky, West Virginia and Ohio in cars he got at the Seneca reservation.

Phillips said he was aware that he had become a cult figure to some, having spotted people wearing T-shirts reading "Run, Bucky, Run" and, "Where's Bucky?" He also knew about the "Bucky Burger" named after him, although he never ate one.

Phillips recalled troopers walking into a diner for lunch while he was there. Patrons who knew him said nothing, he said.

Although he often laid low, Phillips described several "catch me if you can" episodes in which he made himself visible to troopers and police looking for him only to elude them. His most brazen exploit, he said, involved an hourlong conversation with a state trooper while wearing a trooper's uniform he obtained from an acquaintance.

Phillips said he also wore the trooper uniform when he confronted a bounty hunter who had vowed to kill him, punching him in the face and warning him to stay out of the woods.

The Times said many of the details Phillips provided could not be confirmed. But, with the exception of his description of the conversation with the trooper, most are consistent with accounts as understood by authorities.

Phillips shot two troopers on Aug. 31 and told the Times what he also told authorities when he was arrested -- that he thought the two were bounty hunters, because they wore camouflage uniforms. His intent, he said, was to capture and embarrass them by leaving them naked and secured in duct tape.

He expressed regret at the death of Trooper Joseph A. Longobardo.

"Someone didn't have to die. It didn't have to go there," he said.

When he pleaded guilty to the shootings in November, Phillips said that at the time of the shootings, he was angry at State Police for arresting relatives on charges they helped him remain at large. In addition to killing Longobardo, Phillips critically injured another trooper, Donald H. Baker Jr.

Phillips also pleaded guilty to shooting Trooper Sean Brown near Elmira on June 10 after he was stopped in a stolen car. That shooting triggered the largest manhunt in state history.

About a week after the second shooting, Phillips gave himself up to troopers after being cornered in northern Pennsylvania. He said a call from his daughter prompted him to surrender.

Phillips is serving his sentence at Clinton County Correctional Facility in northern New York. The Times reported that Phillips spends 23 hours a day in solitary confinement, under watch at all times.

e-mail: citydesk@buffnews.com

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