VALRICO, Fla. - HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. - After being on the run since Monday, doomsday prepper Martin Winters of Valrico turned himself in on Wednesday, according to the FBI.
He escaped agents on Monday as they descended on land where he’s accused of burying weapons as part of his doomsday survival plans.
Winters, accompanied by two attorneys and a family member, peacefully surrendered at the FBI Field Office in Tampa around 10 a.m., according to FBI spokesman Dave Couvertier
Couvertier said Winters, 55, was "very cooperative." His shoes and socks were soaking wet and he was given dry pairs.
Winters was checked over and appeared to be in good health. He was hungry and was given cheeseburgers, Gatorade and water, Courvertier said.
Winters is leader of the River Otter Preppers, a group preparing for the end of the world as prophesied in the Book of Revelation, according to the FBI.
The group stockpiled food but also illegally-purchased AR-15s, which Winters buried in barrels to access later, just one of his strategies for an imagined "last stand" against the government, according to the FBI. Winters is also accused of building illegal destructive devices out of metal pipes.
When agents tried to stop his vehicle Monday in Plant City, Winters almost struck two officers while trying to speed away, Couvertier said. Some of the agents followed Winters but did not try to keep pace with him.
“Our personnel did not try to pursue at that rate, so that created a distance between our units and Mr. Winters,” Couvertier said.
Agents lost sight of his vehicle multiple times and later found it abandoned and overheated, he said. Steam seeped from the engine, an indication of the speed he traveled to flee agents.
"All these vehicles start piling in here," said Mindy Murray, who saw law enforcement arrive to search for Winters.
Couvertier said the FBI wanted to end the search peacefully. But the chance that Winters, described as a skilled survivalist, may have had access to hidden weapons or was receiving help from friends was a concern.
“This is being blown out of proportion based on his actions,” Couvertier said at a news conference on Tuesday.
“We continue to hear that Mr. Winters is a good person, that he provides for his neighbors and friends,” he continued. “We hope Mr. Winters doesn’t disappoint them.”
Winters was scheduled to appear before a Tampa federal magistrate Wednesday afternoon.