Claude Dallas, the escaped killer of two Idaho game wardens who had vowed never again to be taken alive, was captured--unarmed and without a fight--Sunday afternoon in Riverside, the FBI said.
A self-described "Mountain Man," Dallas, 36, is a romantic folk hero to some people who admire his "Old West" toughness, but he is considered by law enforcement authorities in several Western states to be a cold-blooded killer. He had been on the FBI's 10 Most Wanted list for months.
Fred Reagan, an FBI spokesman in Los Angeles, said Dallas, who escaped from the Idaho State Penitentiary near Boise last March, was seized by FBI agents about 3 p.m. The fugitive had two bags of groceries in his arms as he emerged from a Stop N Go convenience grocery store near the intersection of University Avenue and Comer Street.
The store manager, who would give only his first name of Sammy, said Dallas was wrestled to the ground by about 10 FBI agents, some of whom carried shotguns.
Lucky for Officers
Jack Olsen, author of the book, "Give a Boy a Gun," about the Dallas case, said Sunday night: "I'm very, very relieved that no one's been hurt. The law enforcement officers of this world are very lucky he was carrying two bags of groceries. He would have had no compunction about shooting several of them had he the means to do so."
Olsen recalled that when Dallas was captured the first time, after a 16-month manhunt, it was only after a shoot-out with FBI agents at Paradise Hill, near Winnemucca, Nev.
Sunday, using the alias of Al Schrenk, Dallas first denied being the fugitive, but a fingerprint check proved his identity, Reagan said. The FBI spokesman said Dallas, who was rumored to have been seen in California months ago, was being held temporarily in the Riverside County Jail on a federal fugitive warrant.
Reagan said only FBI agents were involved in his capture. He said agents had learned through an investigation that Dallas had contacts in the Riverside area.
Dallas registered at the Skylark Motel on University Avenue, about two blocks away from the grocery, shortly before noon Sunday. The motel manager, Tung-lung Kuo, said he was accompanied by another unidentified man, who left soon after Dallas paid the $28 nightly room rate in cash.
At 4:30 p.m., Kuo said, FBI agents showed up at the motel and said the new guest had been arrested. They took his registration card and all the items he had left in his room.
The identity of the man who was with Dallas when he arrived was unknown, and the FBI said no other arrests had been made.
Dallas' father, Claude Dallas Sr. of Myrtle Beach, S.C., expressed anger at the arrest Sunday night and suggested the FBI may have been helped by "stool pigeons."
Saying he is proud that his son had managed to elude capture for so long, the elder Dallas said: "If there was a fight I'd have liked to have been in it. I'm sorry he was (near) Los Angeles. He would have been better off in the hills of South Carolina."
But he said he had known it was only a matter of time before his son would be caught. "All them damn stool pigeons," he said. "People will do anything for a dollar. The FBI's really got them. . . . They're just like fleas on a dog's back."
The FBI would not discuss what led agents to the fugitive.
Dallas, to the anger of authorities, had become an almost legendary, nationally known figure of Western resilience, the subject of two books and a controversial CBS television drama, which implied that he shot the wardens in self-defense. The TV show, "Manhunt: Search for Claude Dallas," used as its basis the second book, "The True Story of Claude Dallas--Outlaw," by Jeff Long. Some critics had charged that it glorified Dallas.
Likened to Manson
Olsen, on the other hand, contended that Dallas was "as much of a Western hero as Charles Manson. . . . (He) would kill a lawman with about the same guilt and conscience as he eats his Wheaties in the morning."
The drama began Jan. 6, 1981, when the two game wardens, Bill Pogue and Conley Elms, were gunned down while attempting to arrest Dallas for poaching deer and bobcat at his campsite in the southwestern Idaho desert.
After shooting them, Dallas delivered the coup de grace by firing a .22-caliber bullet into each of their brains.
When he was captured the first time, Idaho prosecutors maintained that he had killed the wardens intentionally and with forethought. However, the defense contended that Dallas had fired only after one of the wardens had drawn a gun.
The jury seemed to agree to some extent with the defense, finding Dallas guilty in the fall of 1982 only of manslaughter. He nonetheless received a 30-year prison term.
Escape on Easter
In the penitentiary, Dallas proved a model prisoner. But last Easter Sunday, after four years in custody, he slipped off during a visiting period, cut through two fences and made his getaway. It was hours before authorities realized he was gone.