Tampa, Florida -- The three daughters of Martin Winters, the doomsday prepper sought by the authorities, say they cannot believe what their father is accused of doing and say the allegations are untrue.
They say he is a loving father and grandfather not a dangerous fugitive. None of the sisters wanted to talk to us on camera, but old us that they were hesitant about whether they would be treated fairly. But with tears in their eyes they told us the FBI has it all wrong.
The search warrant the FBI says it tried to serve on the 55-year-old Winters before he took off in a wooded area of Plant City on Monday morning says he unlawfully used straw buyers to purchase multiple A-R15s. Federal investigators believe the weapons are buried and strategically located on his property near the intersection of Williams Boulevard and Pine Street in Valrico.
The FBI says he also created destructive devices and was training others on how to use them. "But this particular item could be used as a booby trap. It could be used against law enforcement. It could be used against individuals wherever they deploy these items," said Dave Couvertier of the FBI.
Couvertier says it all started on a tip that led to FBI agents investigating Winters for months. He also says Winters is a threat to public safety.
But Winters' daughters say there's just no way the allegations are true. One of the sisters says her two young children were in his vehicle when the FBI stopped him. She expressed concern over how his grandchildren were seeing him portrayed on the news, too.
"We're hoping that he turns himself in and we're hoping that anyone who has information of his whereabouts," said Couvertier. "We're trying to bring this to a peaceful resolution."
No one can say how likely that is because there are concerns that just as Winters stockpiled food as a "prepper," which is someone who believes the end of the world is near, he may have done the same with guns and may have access to them. His daughters expressed concern over that hoping the situation doesn't end violently.
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A $5,000 reward is being offered for anyone who turns in Winters. Anyone with information can call the FBI at 813-253-1000.
In the meantime, Couvertier says Winters' photo is being publicized on digital billboards.