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Search continues for fugitive soldier in Otsego County
RICHFIELD, N.Y. (WKTV) - The small town of Richfield had a big city feel as authorities searched every vehicle within their path Friday.
The New York State Police have been stopping every vehicle along Route 20 since around 10 p.m. Thursday night, asking people if they'd seen anything suspicious and making sure the man they are looking for didn't steal a car from the area and try and drive right by them.
What they were hoping to find was 20 year old Russell Marcum - a Fort Drum soldier who State Police say escaped military custody, led authorities on a high speed chase through four counties, and then fled on foot, telling family members he contacted that he "would not be taken alive."
Representatives with Fort Drum say Marcum is fairly new to the armed forces. He joined the Army in August 2010 and came to Fort Drum in January 2011, and was then deployed to Afghanistan. A member of the 10th Mountain Division First Brigade Combat Team, he returned to Fort Drum in March.
State Police say he faces burglary and grand larceny changes stemming from a Labor Day Weekend break in to self-service storage lockers in Watertown. He was transferred to military custody, where he attacked another soldier and escaped. State Police Captain Francis Coots said Marcum gained access to a car and began a high speed chase that began in Jefferson County, traveled through Madison County and ended in Otsego County.
One man who lives in the Richfield area said he was listening to his police scanner Thursday night and heard the entire chase unfold.
"Like a fool, I jumped in my car just to look at it, just to watch," said Scott Goodspeed, of Richfield. "He passed me, must have been doing 100 miles per hour, on three wheels, one side was just about down to the ground, sparking like crazy."
That pickup truck crashed into a ditch after hitting spike strips set out by State Police between Sangerfield and Richfield, and Marcum ended up in a field about two miles further down Route 20.
"Yeah, there was flames shootin' out from the driver's side tire just crazy," Goodspeed said. "Never thought he'd get as far as he did."
Marcum fled on foot, just out of the reach of an officer that was right behind him. The man trained to survive appears to have done just that since being on the run.
Goodspeed says his dog was barking around 3 a.m. Friday morning. Goodspeed went outside of his Richfield home to get some firewood and then came back inside. Later that morning, around 7 a.m.m he woke up to a team of SWAT members around his home. He says Russell Marcum had broken into his storage trailer outside.
"He took a heavy insulated jacket, and a headband flashlight, kind of goes on your head, so they've done a bunch of investigating down there," Goodspeed said.
"Well, certainly it was cold last night, but he is a trained soldier, so we're taking every precaution we can," said NYS Police Spokesperson Trooper Jack Keller. "We believe that we're still able to track him, so we're using out helicopters and also our canine."
Investigators say Marcum definitely has a cell phone, and may also have a handgun, as well as a bullet proof vest he may be wearing. Trooper Keller said authorities were not sure where the cell phone came from.
"The cell phone I'm not familiar with, the gun we're not for sure he has it," Trooper Keller said. "We discovered a flack jacket, which may be also similar to a bullet proof vest. We also think he may have a flashlight with him. At this time, we're not 100 percent sure he has a weapon with him, but we are considering him armed."
Area schools such as the Mount Markham School District and Richfield Springs Central School kept students inside the building throughout the day, including physical education classes, lunch, and recess due to the manhunt. However, classes continued as usual and students were dismissed at their normal time, albeit with law enforcement presence nearby as a precaution.
While the search continued in Richfield, it extended well beyond that to other areas of Otsego County, with State Police, and other law enforcement officers, K-9 Units, and helicopters searching throughout the region for any sign of Marcum.
If anyone see's Russell, authorities warn to not approach him, and contact 911 immediately.
State Police are being assisted by the NYS Park Police, NYS Department of Environmental Conservation, NYS Forrest Rangers, Onondaga County Sheriff’s AIR 1, Oneida County Sheriff, and the Otsego County Sheriff’s Office.