Deputies catch NC manhunt suspect with missing man’s pickup, missing man not found

Bryson left, and Stroupe in photographs from the Henderson County Sheriff's Office.

MILLS RIVER, N.C. (WNCN) — The subject of a massive manhunt in the western mountains of North Carolina, which closed a large section of the Pisgah National Forest, has been captured. The fugitive was caught with a missing man’s pickup truck, and authorities are now scouring the area for the truck’s owner, authorities say.

Phillip Michael Stroupe II, 39, of Burnsville, was captured in McDowell County.

Around 10:30 p.m. Wednesday, deputies ended a vehicle chase by deploying stop sticks, the McDowell County Sheriff’s Office said, but then had to search for him on foot after he escaped into a tomato field, deputies said. He was captured about 1:30 a.m. Thursday.

EARLIER: Missing man believed to be with suspect in NC national forest manhunt, kidnapping possible, deputies say

Authorities had been combing the mountains for him since Saturday, when he eluded them by stealing a bike at gunpoint, then blocking the road with his vehicle and pedaling away, according to law enforcement officials.

After Stroupe’s capture, the focus turned to locating Thomas Bryson. The Henderson County Sheriff’s Office said Thursday that investigators believe Stroupe kidnapped Bryson. The 68-year-old man was last seen leaving his home in Henderson County at about 8:35 a.m. Wednesday.

“The Henderson County Sheriff’s Office along with local, state and federal agencies are investigating and following leads in multiple counties and jurisdictions,” the Henderson County Sheriff’s Office wrote.

The sheriff’s office said Thursday that detectives now “have reason to believe” that Stroupe may have traveled into eastern Tennessee before the vehicle chase that ultimately led to his capture.

Deputies urge anyone in Tennessee or North Carolina who saw Bryson or his Honda Ridgeline, which Stroupe was driving shortly before his capture, to contact authorities.

Bryson is described as 5 feet 9 inches tall, weighing 175 pounds. He has gray hair and a gray mustache and was last seen wearing a dark plaid shirt, brown cargo shorts and tennis shoes. The Honda Ridgeline is silver, with NC tag AAR-7345. It has a West Henderson Falcons tag on the front and a West Henderson magnet on the back.

Stroupe has been charged with possession of methamphetamine, fleeing to elude arrest, failure to stop for a steady red light, reckless driving to endanger, resisting a public officer and possession of a firearm by a felon and has been taken to the McDowell County jail under a $100,000 bond.

“We found a handgun in a field between where he left the vehicle and where he was apprehended that is likely associated with him,” McDowell County Sheriff Dudley Greene said. “He was also found to be in possession of a small amount of methamphetamine.”

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