Marshals detail Christy manhunt
This undated image released by the U.S. Marshals Service shows Shawn Richard Christy, who authorities say is accused of threatening President Donald Trump and law enforcement officials. The U.S. Marshals Service says a Pennsylvania man accused of threatening President Donald Trump and law enforcement officials has been arrested in Ohio. They say Shawn Richard Christy was arrested at 4:45 p.m. Friday, Sept. 21, 2018 in Mifflin Township, near Columbus, by marshals and task force members from Ohio and Pennsylvania. (U.S. Marshals Service via AP)
On Wednesday, jurors in the Shawn Christy federal trial got a firsthand account of the three-month manhunt last summer which spanned six states and Canada.
Federal agents tracked the McAdoo resident from Pennsylvania to Canada, to West Virginia and Kentucky during the summer of 2018, fearing that Christy would act on his alleged online threats against the president and police officers.
“We took the threats he was making online so seriously. Everything was cautious,” said Deputy U.S. Marshal Nik Hannevig.
During Wednesday’s testimony, Hannevig spent more than two hours describing the operation, including large-scale searches in Canada and around the Kentucky home of Medal of Honor recipient Dakota Meyer. The court was recessed until Thursday, when Christy, who is representing himself, will cross-examine Hannevig.
Hannevig recalled that Christy even managed to evade a Rush Township resident who held Christy at gunpoint in late August, not long after Christy was allegedly caught on tape breaking into Skipper Dipper’s Ice Cream for a late-night meal.
At the outset of the manhunt, Christy’s parents warned Hannevig that their son would attempt to evade capture.
“They indicated that he was going to be in the woods, and he was going to be difficult to find. And they were correct,” Hannevig recalled while on the stand Wednesday.
During the manhunt Christy allegedly stole at least five vehicles. Marshals reviewed so many surveillance videos that they could identify him without seeing his face. Hannevig said they could identify him just by his walk — little to no arm movement, with a forward lean and pigeon toes.
Hannevig said the Marshals became aware of Shawn Christy in late May of 2018. Christy — who was wanted for missing a court date on assault charges dating to 2017 — allegedly posted on Facebook that he would use “full lethal force” against any officer who attempted to arrest him.
He said they took that threat seriously. A couple weeks later, on June 12, the FBI and Secret Service joined the search after Christy posted that he would “put a bullet in the head” of President Donald Trump and Northampton County District Attorney John Morganelli.
On June 20, 2018, U.S. Marshals executed a search warrant at Christy’s home, and conducted the first of what would end up being many searches of the mine lands around McAdoo.
Four days later, Craig Christy informed authorities that Shawn had returned home. Hannevig said Craig Christy told him that he encouraged his son to turn himself in, but that Shawn said he would continue to run because he felt he was not being treated fairly in his 2017 assault case.
Hannevig said that as they searched the area, they constantly warned local police of Christy’s threat to use “full lethal force.”
“We wanted everyone to be aware that Shawn Christy made these statements, and there was a risk to any officers who tried to arrest him because he made these statements.”
They continued searching around McAdoo until July 7, 2018, when they learned a vehicle stolen from the Hazleton area was found near the Canada border. The manhunt then shifted to Canada with assistance from the Canadian Royal Mounted Police and Quebec Provincial Police.
More than 50-100 Canadian officers participated in a search of wooded areas and rural properties. The one place they could not enter was Mohawk Tribal land, which was located near the border.
Despite many tips, the search came up empty.
First return to Pa.
A few days later, Hannevig learned that a truck stolen near the New York-Canada border was found back in Pennsylvania, sitting along Interstate 81 in Lackawanna County.
Shortly after that, a break-in was reported at the Scranton School for the Deaf, located less than a mile from where the truck was found.
Marshals and police searched the grounds of the School for the Deaf. Hannevig said they found a pile of food which had been stolen from the school. He guessed that they were at least a day behind Christy because a half-eaten ham had maggots on it.
The next development was a break-in at Christy’s uncle’s house in Drums on July 25. Hannevig said the break-in and theft of three guns made Christy’s threats even more scary because now they knew he was armed. In a note allegedly left by Christy, he told his uncle that he wanted to go out with firepower in his hands.
“In law enforcement, when you’re working with a dangerous fugitive like this, that’s an indication that he’s not going to go peacefully,” Hannevig said.
A second note, addressed to Christy’s mother, said that Christy was indeed on Mohawk land when he was in Canada.
Christy’s return to the McAdoo area was concerning for agents because President Trump was set to appear in Wilkes-Barre on Aug. 2, 2018.
On July 28, Christy was allegedly caught on tape stealing a minivan from a bus company located near his uncle’s house. The van turned onto northbound 309 after leaving the bus company, which made Hannevig fear that he was headed to Wilkes-Barre.
On Aug. 2, a truck driver traveling along Interstate 64 in West Virginia saw the van and recognized it from national news reports.
Hannevig contacted authorities in Nitro, West Virginia, who said they had just towed the van.
He said he struggled to understand why Christy was traveling to Canada and West Virginia.
“It felt like he took us to Canada to move our manhunt up there so he could hopefully slip out. It felt like we were just being dragged around the country,” he said.
But a post from Craig Christy alerted him to a possible motive. Craig Christy posted, “Shawn, if you’re headed to Kentucky, Dakota Meyer isn’t worth it.”
Dakota Meyer is a Medal of Honor recipient and former husband of Bristol Palin. They contacted federal agents in Kentucky and Texas, where Meyer has homes.
They learned that on Aug. 3, a truck was stolen about a mile from where the van was abandoned, but the person responsible for it didn’t report it because they feared getting in trouble with their employer for having left the keys inside.
That vehicle was found near the Meyer family’s home in Kentucky. Marshals searched that area extensively.
On Aug. 9, while marshals were investigating vehicle thefts in areas surrounding the Meyer home, Christy allegedly broke into the Meyer home unnoticed. Surveillance footage viewed in court showed a man who Hannevig identified as Christy inside the house, and running across the lawn with a sledgehammer. In the videos, the man is moving quickly and in daylight. The previous alleged break-ins during the manhunt all occurred at night and surveillance videos showed that the perpetrator was relaxed.
The video showed the man then stealing a Jeep Cherokee designed to be a mail jeep.
The Jeep was seen in Nitro, West Virginia, but marshals were unable to track it any further despite blanketing Interstate 64 in that area.
Hannevig said the Marshals returned to Pennsylvania, but on Aug. 19 were summoned to Cumberland, Maryland, after a towing company owner said he chased a man off his property.
Marshals found a backpack at the towing company containing documents from Meyer’s home, and a 9 mm handgun matching one stolen from Christy’s uncle’s house.
On Aug. 20, Hannevig learned that a vehicle was stolen from a nearby business. Also, two women from a local church came forth with notes they said were left during an Aug. 18 break-in.
He said the notes were from Christy. One was addressed to the church — apologizing for stealing $55 and chocolates, and complimenting the church on its security.
The note read “I have been forced into a war which I did not want to fight, which has caused me to do many things which I very deeply regret.”
A second note to the marshals told them how to find a .22-caliber handgun which Christy had allegedly dropped while on the run in Kentucky, because he didn’t want it to fall into the wrong hands.
The note also said “If you want a war, I’ll give you a war, and I promise I’ll give you everything I’ve got.”
A second Trump appearance was impacted by the search. The president was set to appear in Charleston in late August, and security was heightened because of Christy.
Second return to Pa.
The morning of Aug. 21, the Meyer family’s Jeep was recovered from the parking lot at Walmart in Rush Township.
Hannevig said the Marshals resumed their search in this area, and received some hotline calls.
He said a homeowner on Quakake Road told him that he had Christy at gunpoint, but he escaped.
Over the next two weeks, Christy allegedly broke into Skipper Dipper Ice Cream, Skitco Iron Works, Haulmark Trailers and Redco Group, all businesses along Route 309 not far from McAdoo.
On Sept. 6, during a second break-in at Redco, Christy allegedly stole a pickup truck.
Hannevig said based on Christy’s behavior earlier in the manhunt, he knew that he would be traveling a long distance. It was just a matter of finding out where.
On Sept. 10, the truck was located in Mansfield Ohio.
Shortly after, Hannevig said, Craig Christy forwarded a message to authorities where Shawn allegedly said the truck had mechanical problems, and that he still had the .380 caliber handgun from his uncle’s house.
On Sept. 21, group of officers even larger than the one in the Canadian search entered the woods. They found Christy hiding in a ravine and arrested him without incident.
For a map of Christy’s run from law enforcement, see this story online.