PLANT CITY -- An FBI manhunt is ongoing for the 55-year-old Valrico man wanted on federal charges of manufacturing illegal weapons.
The search for Martin Winters ranged from Plant City to Lithia on Monday. There currently is no law enforcement presence in the area.
Officials say Winters, described as "extremely dangerous," is the subject of an FBI investigation. Agents say Winters was illegally obtaining assault rifles and building pipe bombs.
Federal agents dressed in camouflage gear and holding rifles kept their eyes on an area of woods off Lithia Pinecrest Road Monday evening. According to authorities, Winters was approached by authorities while in his vehicle just before 9 a.m. Monday on Cheryl Court in Plant City. Officials said Winters got out of his vehicle and ran into a wooded area near Durant High School, which was briefly locked down.
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A SWAT team and helicopters were brought in but Winters got away.
Officials said there is an outstanding federal arrest warrant for Winters. According to a federal indictment, Winters is accused of "making destructive devices.”
Investigators said Winter's plan included killing government agents if he or any member of his group were attacked. Winters is described as a Doomsday prepper, and officials said he buried weapons, ammunition and zip-locked food around several of his properties to to prepare for what he called the end of time.
The federal affidavit points out a YouTube video that shows a man they believed to be Winters digging up one of the many 55 gallons barrels on his and other properties near his home.
The federal affidavit goes on to say Winters is part of a group called the River Otter Preppers, and that he had a plan to kill government agents when he needed to. Investigators say he also made statements about creating booby traps at his home in Valrico, then shooting law enforcement officers when they tried to run away.
Winters was indicted in October on four counts of building destructive devices. He has been under government surveillance since then, according to the FBI.According to officials, Winters told an undercover agent he had 50 AR-15 rifles buried on his property and other properties. The agent also said Winters told him he wanted to burn his house down and then shoot agents as they arrived to the scene.
Winters also said he had at least 40 men that were willing to participate in his "last stand," officials said.