Time has passed, news organizations and police have moved on; but one question remains. Where is David Earl Burgert? A fugitive militia member and survivalist who fired on police during a routine traffic stop remains at large and no one seems to know how to find him.
David Earl Burgert’s criminal record dates back to 2002 when he was convicted on federal weapons violations after an investigation into the Project 7 militia, which he was associated with in Montana. The former Marine has been described as a bully, confrontational neighbor, and a troublemaker by local law enforcement and people who know him. He has also been diagnosed with paranoid personality disorder. What is interesting about David Burgert’s story is not that he is common criminal with mental problems, but the fact that he has survived in some of the harshest country on this earth for almost a year without support, or so it seems.
Rookies vs Pros
Around the same time David Burgert had his run in with local law enforcement, another group of criminals also started a crime wave in Florida. In the summer of 2011 three siblings know as the “Dougherty Gang” also started their trouble with law enforcement with a minor traffic violation that turned into a high-speed chase with them evading police by shooting out the pursuing police car’s tires. The Dougherty Gang went on to rob a bank a few hours later in Valdosta, GA and then led police on a nationwide manhunt. Before their high speed chase, the Dougherty Gang had 20 felonies between the three of them (Ryan 21 years old, Dylan 26 years old, and Lee Grace 29 years old). Not exactly a model family.
The Dougherty Gang lasted just 8 days before law enforcement in Colorado caught up with them after a customer in an REI parking lot identified them. The trio had stopped by REI to pick up a tent to avoid staying in hotels while they made their way across country. It is probably obvious to most observers that the Dougherty Gang, comprised of a stripper (Lee Grace), a pedophile (Ryan), and a pot head (Dylan), were way out of their league trying to avoid detection and live off the land while on the run. Although we don’t know their level of survival training or preparedness, we can only assume they that would not be able to hold a candle to David Earl Burgert who walked into the woods never to be seen again.
It is interesting to look at these two somewhat similar cases and see how knowledge and preparedness can make a big difference in the outcome. While we are not glorifying the criminal David Burgert, we do find it interesting that he has survived for almost a year while the Dougherty Gang lasted only 8 days.
So where is David Burgert now?
This is where we get into a little team SurvivalCache speculation and we invite you to speculate in the comments below as well. After his disappearance police speculated that David Burgert planned this event and had made a series of survival caches and possibly stashed an SUV or other type vehicle in the woods. It was believed that he was planning this event because law enforcement found a large stash of weapons, ammo, and survival gear in his jeep after the chase. Also, the week before the shoot out, Burgert had a similar traffic violation and made comments to the officer that the next time it would take a SWAT team to take him down.
An episode of America’s Most Wanted put Burgert in Montana, Colorado, or Idaho. Most likely we feel he is still in Montana getting support from former Project 7 militia members or friends and family. Although we do not know why or how law enforcement came up with the theory about a stashed ATV or SUV, we would put that theory as doubtful. The idea that David Burgert planned that far ahead and had an SUV secretly stashed in the forest near where he disappeared is remote at best. A lot of things would have to happen just the right way for a police chase to end near the area where you stashed an SUV on public land. Possible, yes, likely, no. Stashing something above ground on public land goes against almost every principal of survival caching that we know of. More than likely David Burgert spent 1 to 2 weeks in the woods with only the gear he had on his body when he disappeared into the forest. He most likely waited out the dragnet by finding dense brush to hide in or simply hiked out of the search zone. The police did not say it but we will say it for them, finding a person who doesn’t want to be found in the Rocky Mountains is like finding a needle in a haystack. As for gear, all we know for sure is that he had a pistol on him because he fired at law enforcement as he fled into the woods. The police reported a large amount of ammo and gear found in his jeep at the time of his escape. This is another telltale sign that things did not go as planned for David Burgert. We don’t know many survivalists who have a Plan A where they leave behind good survival gear and ammo. Most likely Burgert was executing Plan B or even Plan C when he jumped out of his jeep.
Burgert’s trouble started when someone reported him driving erratically in his Jeep near a rest stop by Lolo, Montana. Police soon caught up with him and the chase ensued. Our thoughts are this: if you are a convicted felon with a car full of guns and ammo, not to mention a former militia member with anti-government behavior, why would you want to bring attention to yourself and get the government really after you? Doesn’t make a lot of sense to us either. We think he was drunk or stoned, got into a police chase and jumped out of his jeep, leaving all of his preps behind. Again, this is our theory; but we feel it makes more sense than leading police on a chase to a hidden batmobile in the mountains.
Is Burgert dead? While this is always a possibility, we feel that this is unlikely for a few reasons. First it was early summer in Montana and although the mountains are unforgiving and the nights can be cold, a survivalist dying from exposure in those conditions is unlikely. Second, even a lightly trained boy scout could figure out ways to find food and water in order to survive for a week in the mountains of Montana in the summer. A seasoned survivalist and Marine such as Burgert would have few problems here. Now if he stayed in the mountains through the winter then the chances of him dying would increase drastically.
Rambo or Bozo
Burgert surviving off the land? We feel that this is also very unlikely. From what we have read, Burgert is an anti-government militia man, not a mountain man. We feel there is a big difference. Even with survival caches in place, it is likely that Burgert is getting support from someone he is close to. Also, based on what we have read, he is not exactly a folk hero among the locals so support would have to come from someone that he is fairly close to such as a family member, girlfriend, or militia member. Anyone else who met up with Burgert would turn him into the police. In 2002 he went to jail based on an informant who infiltrated the Project 7 Militia. Based on this, we think he would most likely only trust a family member or girlfriend.
If we were trying to catch him, we would pinpoint all of the areas his friends and family live in, focusing on anyone that lived on the edge of the city or in the mountains. From there, we would sweep a two-mile zone around those homes focusing on areas near running water. Although he could be living in someone’s basement, we feel it is more likely that he is visiting a home at night to get resupplied. Getting caught living at someone’s house means that person is going to spend a long time in federal prison for aiding and abetting a known fugitive. Of course it is possible, but you would really have to like David Earl Burgert a lot to take that risk and we’re guessing not many people do.
What do you think? Is David Earl Burgert alive or dead? Where do you think he is hiding and how would you catch him? It might take a survivalist to catch a survivalist.