POWELL (WNE) — With guns drawn, Yellowstone National Park law enforcement officers stopped two visitors on Tuesday morning, believing they might be wanted fugitives and suspected murderers. But it turned out to be a case of mistaken identity.
Park officials shut down Yellowstone’s East Entrance and stopped traffic near Sedge Bay after receiving a tip that Blane and Susan Barksdale may have passed through the gate. A manhunt has been underway for the Barksdales since late last month, when they overpowered guards and escaped from custody. At the time of their getaway, the couple was being transported to Arizona, where they face charges that include murder.
Believing that the Barksdales might be in Yellowstone, a large contingent of Park Service officers pulled over a gray Ford pickup with Illinois license plates around 8:30 a.m. Tuesday.
A witness at the scene said several park officers — carrying tactical weapons and wearing helmets and bulletproof vests — blocked the vehicle near Sedge Bay.
“Park law enforcement conducted a high risk traffic stop of a vehicle after a neighboring agency alerted us to potential fugitives,” said Yellowstone spokeswoman Linda Veress.
However, “in the end, the occupants of the vehicle were not the suspects,” Veress said.
The suspects were detained in handcuffs at 9:15 a.m., but it wasn’t long before the officers realized that the visitors, on closer inspection, did not match the description of the wanted fugitives.
The couple actually being sought by law enforcement — Blane Barksdale, 56, and Susan Barksdale, 59 — remain at large.