Jon Paxton of the Coconino County Sheriff’s Office talks about the hunt for someone who shot at a U.S. Forest Service wildland firefighter.

The Coconino County Sheriff’s Office said that a man suspected of shooting at a U.S. Forest Service employee Tuesday was seen on the Fort Apache Reservation on Saturday afternoon.

Officials said the man was seen carrying three bags and wearing the same blue, short-sleeve t-shirt and white, long-sleeved undershirt that he was wearing when he encountered the Forest Service employee on Tuesday. 

According to the Sheriff’s Office, he was dropped off by an unidentified vehicle near the US 60 and Cibecue Road. 

The Sheriff’s Office said in a media release that investigators learned the suspect mentioned he was heading toward Mexico.

Authorities believe the unidentified man set a series of small brush fires Monday in and around Forest Lakes, a small community off State Route 260, about 40 miles east of Payson. Fire crews were able to extinguish the fires almost as quickly as they sparked. 

A U.S. Forest Service wildland firefighter was patrolling the area at about 10:30 a.m. Tuesday when a man jumped out of the bushes with a handgun.

The firefighter began to run to his vehicle as the man shot an estimated five to seven shots, said Jon Paxton, a spokesman for the Coconino County Sheriff’s Office. At one point, the firefighter tripped, and the suspect pulled out a shotgun from his belongings and continued to shoot another two to four times.

Paxton said the firefighter “amazingly” escaped without getting hit and alerted officials, triggering a manhunt for the shooter.

Officials said the suspect is believed to be armed and dangerous, and he should not be approached. 

If he is seen, police said that local law enforcement should be contacted.


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