tv The Hunt With John Walsh CNN February 7, 2016 3:00pm-4:01pm PST
good-bye it a beloved member of our team. jennifer hendrickson, our editorial producer. look at her there. booking genius who schedules the great guest we have every week. she is a remarkable woman and journalist. great friend to all of us. she is moving from atlanta up here to be with me in new york. she's joining our new day team. our colleagues on that show are incredibly lucky to be getting jen. our thanks to you, jen, for all you've done for us. thank you all for being with us. i'm poppy harlow in new york. see you back here next week.
july 19, 2012, 2:45 in the morning. arrived on the scene. it was really apparent two cars that collided hit head-on. >> a car is just as deadly as a gun. >> we had three people in a car and all had serious injuries and one person had a fatal injury. >> sometimes what looks like an accident really is a crime. >> there are people that shouldn't be on the road behind the wheel of a car. that should be in jail and christopher pons is one of those people. >> there is no question who the bad guy is in this case p the question is within where is he?
returned from afghanistan with the u.s. marines, and we hadn't seen him since high school. so me and william with another friend of mine, robert, we figured out a good meeting point would be down in hyde park. at the time i didn't have my own vehicle, so me and will were sort of chipping both in on gas for his car. he had had that mustang since high school. we took that thing to work every day, we went, hung out with all the same people together and i mean, that was our -- that was the car. that was the familiar vehicle for us. >> william didn't really want to drive that night, but he said robert's car was on the fritz so he was probably going to have to drive. >> by the time we actually got there, it was probably at least 11:00, 11:30. we were underaged but we were still allowed to hang out in the bar because it was a restaurant also.
we were just having a good night, you know. we had no idea what was to come. closing time comes and we got in the car. i sort of squashed myself in the back of this mustang. i must have been halfway behind the passenger seat, halfway in the middle. we were coming up to the merge. i saw headlights. i remember veering to the right, and i heard both william and robert scream. before i knew it, i was going through the windshield.
>> early in the morning of july 19th, 2012, i was out patrolling with the florida highway patrol. i was traveling on interstate 4 approaching the junction here in tampa with i-275. reports on the radio that a severe crash had occurred. i was roughly about three miles away, so i was able to respond rapidly. >> when i opened my eyes, i was
laying through the windshield face down on the engine. the first thing that really crossed my mind was i'm outside, how can i be outside. i was just like what the hell happened. what happened. i couldn't really feel any pain. i think the only thing i could really feel was the sensation of the hot engine on my arms and my chest. and i heard robert yell, and he told me that his arm and his leg were broken. robert's father's a police officer and we knew it was best to try and stay awake, so we tried talking to one another, and just tried to keep each other calm. we hadn't heard anything from will.
i think we both assumed that he was knocked out from the impact. >> there's a pretty large signal 4 on i-275 northbound. >> the thing's destroyed. i guarantee you it's a 1032 in that car right there. >> nobody in the vehicle is moving right now. >> as it turns out, i did actually pass out. when i woke up, there were some people driving through the rubble. one gentleman got out and he approached us, and as soon as he got up to the vehicle he just put his hand over his face. the paramedics arrived and i could hear the ambulances, i could hear a helicopter also, and i could see the lights from the ambulance.
they reached the vehicle and they were shining the flashlight through the front of the twisted mess. robert started yelling for them to get william out of the car first so i just chimed in. i couldn't see will so i started arguing with the paramedic. and i heard him call signal seven. signal seven means there's a body. >> one unconscious male in the mustang. >> the paramedic sat in the front of the vehicle and i'm still arguing with him about will. he just said to me he didn't make it, and that was the first time that i heard that i had lost my best friend. >> right off the bat, i could tell that the driver of the mustang had been killed in the crash. the other person inside the other car was receiving
treatment from fire rescue personnel. they had to extract him, but he was alive as well. we started to piece the evidence together, and what we surmised occurred was that the driver of the ford had entered the wrong exit ramp, coming the wrong way, and collided head-on with the mustang. >> when someone's coming at you in the wrong lane down the highway and you have no options, you're going to hit head-on. you're lucky, you live. if you're unlucky, you're dead. and one person, william angel, in that car, was the unlucky guy who died. because of an entitled, spoiled, drunk kid. >> we identified what became known as the wrong way driver as christopher ponce, and in a case like this, that is so egregious, it was very clear early on that alcohol most likely played a role. >> i don't know why he was on the road.
why was he allowed to drive? >> actually, why was he allowed back on the road. >> it was just a matter of time before he killed somebody. it was just a matter of time. >> his license had been suspended numerous times. >> you kill somebody with a gun, you're not allowed out on bail. he still killed him. why is he given the privilege of being home? the 88th southern parallel. we had traveled for over 850 miles. my men driven nearly mad from starvation and frostbite. today we make history. >>bienvenidos! welcome to the south pole!
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christopher ponce is accused of driving drunk the wrong way on i-275 early thursday morning and causing a deadly head-on collision. the car he hit, a mangled mustang driven by 20-year-old william angel of wesley chapel. >> william drew satisfaction from making other people feel good. he was going to work for my sister's motel and marina on the portage river up in ohio, fishing tourist area. he had the perfect personality for that work. my sister wanted to build a
cabin each year to rent out and i was building one, and he was due to come up in august to look at our first cabin. and of course, july 19th came and he never got to see the first cabin. >> this is william's room. hasn't changed much. it's still the same room, complete with books and pictures and pictures of his old dog, his bed in the corner where it always was.
this is still william's room. >> i know that feeling. i've been there. somebody tears your heart out, but you don't die. you don't bleed to death. you're still functioning. you're heartbroken and you're devastated. he was a great little brother, we love him, we want justice, we want our day in court. >> we learned a lot in that first day, but there's still so many questions. i didn't know chris ponce from the guy next to me. no idea who he was. how do you get on an off-ramp, especially downtown? how does chris get on the wrong side of the road? >> he had had a previous dui arrest. we knew that his license has been suspended numerous times for various reasons, pretty much throughout the state of florida, from the panhandle to the south end of the state.
>> reckless driving charges, drunk driving charges, speeding tickets. i mean, you can expect for a teenager to get a speeding ticket, but the list was horrifying for a man that's 22 years old. >> the only thing that i know about chris ponce is that his parents were successful dentists. >> christopher went to an expensive private school. the one thing that you could definitely say was that chris was very lucky financially to be born into the family that he is. >> chris loves expensive watches, flashy clothes, fast cars. he used to laugh when people called him reckless. i think he took it as a compliment. the accident didn't really surprise me. he had been caught drinking and driving before. his lifestyle didn't really seem to change.
>> without a doubt, this is not an accident. this was a deadly, troubled, alcoholic time bomb waiting to blow up. >> our investigators arrived at the hospital when we knew that christopher ponce would be released once his treatment concluded. he had a broken ankle from the accident which seems minute compared to everything that we went through. >> we took him to the county jail. at that point we made charges of reckless driving, dui manslaughter and vehicular homicide. those were some pretty serious offenses. the first hearing that mr. ponce would face would be a bail hearing and because toxicology results can often take weeks or months to return, and without those results, the judge didn't feel completely comfortable keeping mr. ponce in jail, and opted to provide a high bond.
>> the judge said that he was going to grant the bond, but he turned to the prosecutor and said when that blood alcohol comes back, if it's over the legal limit, he will be retained back into custody. >> your life comes to a screeching halt. you're not going to school. you're not going to church. you're going to sit in your house and you're going to stay there. >> the judge was very aggressive in his comments and i think he actually said a lot of what a lot of people were thinking. this is a traffic homicide case and the keyword being homicide. he killed somebody. >> i think you were drunk, i think you are lucky you didn't have a girlfriend in the car that didn't die. >> it was a homicide. the victims are in terrible shape. but the guy who caused the whole thing is on the couch watching cable tv, getting food brought to him and taking a nice shower in his bathroom when he's supposed to be in jail. >> it was extremely difficult for me to maintain my composure. >> see, i don't understand, you
kill somebody with a gun, you're not allowed out on bail. you kill somebody with a car, i mean, he still killed him. so why is he given the privilege of being home? >> toxicology results indicated that mr. ponce was drunk. >> he had sustained injuries that required follow-up care. many of the doctors' appointments didn't require removal of the ankle monitor. the mris did. ♪ everything kids touch during cold and flu season sticks with them. make sure the germs they bring home don't stick around. use clorox disinfecting products. because no one kills germs better than clorox. buying smartphones for the whole family is expensive.
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this is your standard ankle monitor. the circuitry of the transmitter is connected and completed within the plastic of the band. if the band is broken, the circuit's broken and therefore, it will not transmit. it's not designed to be fool-proof. it's designed to add an extra layer of assurance that the promises made by this particular
defendant are going to be adhered to. >> weeks later, toxicology results were provided to the judge and indicated that mr. ponce was indeed under the influence of alcohol. he was drunk. he was .14, almost twice the legal limit. >> we are expecting the judge is going to say okay, we will remand you back into custody. instead, he recused himself from the case, because of the comments he made previously. >> i think you were drunk, i think you are lucky you didn't have a girlfriend in the car that didn't die. >> it was assigned to another judge and that judge let the bond stay. >> first judge said if the tox comes back and it's over the legal limit, you're going to be in jail. the second judge, don't they talk? what would be the problem to say
i made a deal, if the tox comes in positive, you got to remand the bond, you got -- you've got to bring him in. he needs to be in jail while he's awaiting trial. >> mr. ponce had sustained injuries that required pretty substantial follow-up care. it was not unusual for us to be aware of doctors' visits, aware of an mri, and we had very good compliance with him up to that point. many of the doctors' appointments didn't require removal of the ankle monitor. the mris did. >> may 9th, 2013, i had received a call that christopher ponce had removed his ankle bracelet so the ability to track him was now gone and that we didn't know
where he was. >> don't tell me he didn't arrange the run. he scheduled multiple doctors' appointments over one month. he takes the bracelet off, he always comes home. he set the cops up. >> i had just assumed that he was going to face what he had done. i was expecting him to go away for awhile and serve his time that he should be serving. i sure did not expect him to flee. >> it's one thing when somebody was just recently in our custody and now is on the lam somewhere. it's another thing when they were in their own home, capable of making any of a number of arrangements that we don't know about. makes it more difficult. i don't know a lot of 22 year olds that are going to successfully pull off going off the grid without help. and that's what he's done thus
far. >> here's a kid who has never done anything in his life but take money from his parents, beautiful car, entitled, no remorse, no empathy. that's what everybody says. how does a kid who doesn't have the street smarts and savvy and connections organize a run? >> somebody knows where he's at. he needs somebody else to clean up after him. so somebody knows where he's at. >> we'd like someone to come forward, whether it be a friend or just the general public that just recognizes the man on the street, come forward and tell us. >> we've started a website just to get people talking. because word of mouth travels. all it takes is one little mess-up, one little detail, to catch somebody. >> we're still trying to get
what's right. >> we're trying to find justice for william. because we're the ones that are left that need to do that. because he's not going to be forgotten. and we love him, still. >> chris ponce has brown hair and brown eyes. he speaks spanish fluently and may be living in a spanish-speaking country. if you have seen christopher ponce, or have any information as to his whereabouts, please call 1-866-the hunt or go online at cnn.com/thehunt. you can remain anonymous. we will pass your tip on to the proper authorities and if requested, will not reveal your name. dave burgert was not your normal rational citizen.
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glacier national park. we're in the rocky mountains. we're surrounded by lots of very mountainous, sparsely populated terrain. we get a lot of people coming here to escape urban city life, to escape high crime areas. it's a great place to raise your kids and live. >> there are people in montana who are less than enthused about the government, who are less than enthused about the idea of government. >> they often call themselves survivalists, but what are they preparing to survive for? they have a belief that there is something they are going to have to survive and that's going to be a showdown.
>> montana has a huge tradition of the population there making a living in a tough environment. people are proud, they work hard. they are the embodiment of the american western spirit. then you've got the other side. militia men, skinheads, tax protesters, sort of that unhinged part of montana that everybody knows is there, they co-exist with it, but it's the underbelly of this beautiful state. >> when he was young, david burgert cared very much about helping other people, particularly helping people whom he perceived to be weaker. i think in his mind, joining the military was a way for him to get to be a hero, to live out his fantasies of helping and saving people. and when he got there, you know,
guys screaming in his face every day didn't -- didn't work with his chemistry. when he came back from the marine corps, violence had become a main form of expression for him. his mother says that he used to press his jeans, put on a cowboy hat and get like really gussied up to go fight. >> mr. burgert was the kind of guy that just didn't fit well in normal society. he was the kind of guy that would do whatever he could to provoke you. i think he just felt that things should be his way. >> for that period of his life, his decisions didn't make a lot of sense. in 1985, he got drunk and broke into a trailer. he went into the refrigerator and made himself a sandwich, but he was carrying a firearm.
he heard a car coming, took off and forgot his pistol. woke up the next day and he didn't have his gun, wanted to find it and he asked the sheriff's department if they had found it. >> in his mind, he had made a mistake, he got too buttered and he left his gun in the trailer that he broke into, and then he was even dumber when he called the cops. it was me, i didn't really do anything that bad, little b & e, i left my gun, i wasn't going to hurt anybody, give me the gun back. how did they repay david burgert for his honesty in 'fessing up? four years in prison. >> when he got out of prison, he moved to flathead valley in northern montana. he got married and at some point, david decided he wanted to join search and rescue.
>> mr. burgert did apply for our search and rescue team, and during the course of that application process, we found that he had a criminal history, so we did tell him that he would not be accepted on to the search and rescue team. he was not overly happy about that. >> that was important to him. that was a void in his life. he had wanted to fill for a long, long time and had failed at every step. you know, he couldn't cut it in the military, he's not allowed to be on search and rescue, so he just becomes this sort of like citizen watchdog in his mind, i think. >> the guy was notorious for being just a pain in the ass. >> he was just one of those very confrontational individuals. >> the people who knew dave felt that it was just a matter of time before something happened.
>> in november of 2001, david worked as a process server for a missoula based attorney and that attorney was in kalispell trying to serve a woman, and was having a hard time tracking her down. finally, he said i got to go back to missoula and he dropped the papers off with david. this attorney on his way out of town happens to see the woman in her car, and starts following her. well, she calls the police and says this guy is stalking me. the police come, they pull him over, they ask him what he's doing. he calls david and says i need you to bring the papers down and prove that i am who i say i am. david arrives at the scene and his relationship being what it was with all members of law enforcement in flathead county, was told to get back in his car immediately.
david refuses to get back in his car after he's told to do so. and is pepper sprayed in the face. an officer puts him in handcuffs. >> i am real familiar with david. i don't want him with his history behind my back while i'm on a traffic stop, okay? >> this had to be a moment where david really snapped. >> it turned out they were members of this militia group known as project 7. the goal of this group was to assassinate people that had wronged them. >> nobody surrender your weapons to nobody. be good.
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>> it looked like mr. burgert had fallen into the river and drowned, but it was not a place where one would slip and fall, so it appeared to us at that point that mr. burgert was attempting to stage his own death or disappearance, and we didn't believe that he would stay missing for very long. >> in february of 2002, we get a 17-year-old male individual who came to us and said that mr. burgert was not dead, he had been living up in the woods with his girlfriend, tracy brockwood. >> tracy brockwood was having an affair with david. >> and they were members of this militia group known as project 7. >> project 7 believed that if big brother or big government becomes too oppressive, they were going to fight back.
>> being a citizen of the republic is not a spectator sport. the only way that you keep government in line is if you are an active participant. >> good morning. >> morning, john. how are you? >> i'm doing good. >> i need to let you know as well as the listeners know that those active members that know what i'm talking about, they need to secure the areas that they have been assigned to secure. nobody, nobody surrender your weapons to nobody. i don't care what color the uniform is. do not surrender your weapons. >> by straw poll, dave was made number one. >> he had been in the battle a long time. he had a lot of knowledge. dave's specialty was firearms. because hey, he was good.
>> i dealt with the militias before here in montana. they have been quite active over the years and you had some core paranoid type people like burgert who somehow came to be seen as leaders. >> i was designated number two by the group. from time to time, we would get together, we would talk about current events, we would talk about different pieces of information that we had picked up about things that were pertinent, you know, to surviving. >> people in the counterintelligence business and law enforcement share a similar philosophy. let's stop them before they start. let's get them before they grow into a giant plant from a little seed. so they started to put pressure on project 7. they started to investigate them, and then came the real showdown. >> the sheriff's department
staked out tracy's house. they see tracy and david get in the car, they follow the car. david bails out of the car, and starts running through the woods. >> we actually chased him through the woods for several hours and were sure he was getting tired. i think he finally realized that we just weren't going to go away. once the reality of that sunk in, he sits down, puts the gun to his own head and we begin talking to him and attempting to get him to give up without any violence to us and without harming himself. >> eventually the negotiators convince him to put the gun down and then they arrested him. >> once mr. burgert is arrested, more and more things came to light.
project 7 had a huge stockpile of weapons and ammunition. some of these were actual machine guns that it was not legal for them to possess. additionally, we found evidence that they were compiling a list of people that they felt needed to be assassinated in local government. and they had developed the means to carry out those plans. >> david and the other members of the group were brought to federal court and charged with weapons violations. >> there were several people federally indicted. the culmination of the project 7 investigation and people did go away to federal prison for a period of time. >> i was the only one that went to trial. everybody else pled guilty. david pled guilty, too. >> he went to prison for seven years. >> we're all lucky this case
ended at least for us back then the way that it did. and then i didn't hear dave burgert's name for years until he got into a shootout with missoula county deputies. >> he had told people he was going to go down in a ball of flame and glory. >> i was looking down the barrel of his gun. then i saw the gun go off. ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ with toothpaste or plain water.an their dentures and even though their dentures look clean, in reality they're not. if a denture were to be put under a microscope, we can see all the bacteria
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when he got out of prison things were not better for david burgert. in the spring of 2011 david removed himself from society more or less and was living in a campground outside of lolo, montana. >> 911, what are you reporting? >> there's been someone parked, sleeping there the last five nights. >> there wasn't a whole lot of specific information we were given from dispatch. but it was enough certainly for us to go and try and find the person and find out what was going on. as we pulled into the rec area, i could see the guy outside his truck. the trunk was open.
he was doing something at the trunk. the guy had gotten in his car and started driving out. so we passed each other. as he's leaving, he just plain runs the stop sign. he gets on the highway, speeds up to 80, 85. and when i ran the plate, dispatch told me he was on federal and state probation. >> we have information he's violent toward law enforcement. >> at that point he slowed quickly and made a hard right turn on the jeep trail that goes by the power lines. this is bad. he's taking us into the wilderness, trying to isolate us. this wasn't going to end well. once we got toward the top of the ridge line my concern was he was now looking for an opportunity to engage us in a gun fight. >> forget about project 7. forget about all the militia ideas. now it was david burgert against the cops.
>> he started slowing down. we could see him looking around left to right. i thought, okay, this is it. he's going to get out and start shooting, but he pulled hard to the right and just went offroad. on top of the hill, burgert stopped and jumped out of his vehicle. he got up that hill. i started running up the hill with my rifle. he had a gun pointing at me. i was looking down the barrel of his gun. then i saw the gun go off. he shot directly at me. i fired off five rounds. i assumed we'd hit him or he was hiding behind his jeep. so we slowly worked up the hill. when we got to the point we could see behind the vehicle, he wasn't there. burghert was gone. that was the moment that i knew he'd just tried to kill me and i had no idea where he was. it made the hair on the back of
my neck stand up. >> the fbi and u.s. marshals have joined in the hunt for a known militia man, david burgert after he shot at missoula county sheriff's deputies. he's armed, at least with a handgun, and is considered extremely dangerous. >> we didn't know if he had been shot. we didn't know if he was waiting to ambush deputies. we weren't able to find any blood. a lot of times people or animals don't leave a blood trail. the manhunt ramped up quickly. 80 to 100 officers doing a ground search. when that came up negative, we knew then he was out of our immediate perimeter. >> later they found caches in the woods. >> food, extra clothing, sleeping bags. >> when the stashes were found it became clear that he had a plan for how he wanted it to play out. >> unless you go to montana, you
don't really understand how vast these areas are. they searched for david burgert, but he disappeared into thin air. >> there are a lot of where's dave burgert theories. has he met up with militia groups that are plotting and planning other things. >> that would be a real possibility that he joined another group that felt he was a hero for the cause. i wouldn't be surprised that he's still in montana or idaho. >> this guy for his entire life could not stay out of trouble. i just don't buy that all of the sudden after decades of run-ins with law enforcement he would stay completely under cover for years. >> i think he's dead. >> there's been no sign at all that we have a dead body up in the woods. we haven't seen any scrap of clothing, any bones. >> david burgert is armed and dangerous.
he's already fired at cops. he knows how to live in those mountains. he's a survivalist. i believe david burgert is out there. david burgert is a skilled outdoorsman, extremely familiar with weapons. he's openly hostile toward government and law enforcement. and he's armed and dangerous. if you have seen david burgert, or have any information as to his whereabouts please call 1-866-the-hunt or go online at cnn.com/the hunt. you can remain anonymous. we'll pass your tip to the proper authorities. and if requested, we'll not reveal your name. >> burgert is a big guy. he's disguised himself in the past. he may have gained weight, lost weight. he's had long hair in the past, he's had short hair. i would encourage anybody that's had dealings with david burgert to call law enforcement. >> i don't know how he got away. they don't know how he got away.
they're ticked off that he got away. this guy left everybody in montana with one big puzzling mystery. mystery. where is david burgert? -- captions by vitac -- www.vitac.com back in 1981 i had the american dream, the beautiful wife, the house in the suburbs and a beautiful 6-year-old son. and one day i went to work, kissed my son good-bye, and never saw him again. in two weeks, i became the parent of a murdered child and i'll always be the parent of a murdered child. i still have the heartache. i still have the rage. i waited years for justice. i know what it's like to be there waiting for some answers. and over those years, i learned how to do one thing really well. and that's how to catch these bastards and bring them back to justice. i've become a manhte