Manhunt underway for Valrico 'prepper'

Valrico, Florida -- The manhunt continues for a Valrico man who took off when he was confronted by federal agents Monday morning.

Marty Winters, 55, is described as a "prepper," a survivalist who preaches that the end is near.

This morning at about 8:40 a.m., the FBI tried to serve a search warrant on Winters, but he took off on foot. They've been searching for him throughout the day and are going through his home here on Williams Boulevard where they suspect he was assembling small explosives.

Acting on a tip, the FBI had been investigating Winters for months.

Neighbors say he has been stock-piling weapons, food and other items, preparing for the end of the world.

"He's a prepper. A preparer for the end. Because biblically, the time's right," said Tom, a friend of Winters' who was riding his motorcycle near the home Monday.

Tom says he and others would attend weekly church services held on Winters' porch, where he would quote Bible verses and cite current events suggesting the end of times is near.


He says Winters was prepping by storing food underground, raising livestock and collecting weapons -- ready to defend his property from the government or anyone else who tried to take it.

"Any man, an American, anybody has a right to defend their property," said Tom. "Anybody, against invasion. When anarchy kicks in, he doesn't want to expose himself to the gunfire downtown."

The FBI says it had no problem with Winters stockpiling food, or even weapons, as long as it was done legally. Even his published anti-Obama rantings, a sentiment clearly shared by Winters' neighbors, are his constitutional right, authorities say.

"He's anti-Obama that's for sure," said Tom, who described himself the same way.

But the federal warrant cites evidence that Winters was building small explosives, booby-trap devices, and teaching others how to build them too. And that, they say, is what led to today's raid on Winters' home along Williams Boulevard.


Throughout the day, agents moved in and out of the house carrying everything from simple shovels to high-powered weapons. Bomb-sniffing dogs canvassed the property too.

"And this is probably his worst nightmare," Tom said of his friend, "for these guys to come down here and stomp on his 1st Amendment rights."

If you see Martin Winters, you're asked to contact the Tampa FBI Field Office at 813-253-1000.


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