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Black Forest 'Rambo' Eludes German Police 3 Days Into Hunt

2020-07-15 13:43:53
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BERLIN — The call to the German police on Sunday seemed a bit odd but routine enough. A man armed with a bow and arrow had been squatting illegally in a small shed outside the village of Oppenau in the foothills of the Black Forest.

When four officers arrived, Yves Etienne Rausch, 31, greeted them calmly while seated behind a table in the red shed. He handed over his bow and arrow, and a spear that was by his side. But when officers asked to search him, he drew a gun, threatened one policeman at point blank range and demanded their weapons.

Then he ran.

And for three days and three nights he has evaded capture despite a manhunt that has involved more than 1,500 police officers and attracted a growing online following. A Facebook page set up in his honor has more than a thousand subscribers and the manhunt has become a running story in Germany’s tabloids, which refer to Mr. Rausch as “Forest Rambo.”

The search has turned into an embarrassment for the highly trained and well-equipped state police, who have admitted that they are at a disadvantage against a single foe who had extensive local knowledge and the ability to survive for an extended period of time in the 2,100-acre forest.

“The forest is his living room. That’s why — given the impassible and at times steep terrain — it is difficult for us to find him quickly,” said the Offenburg police commissioner Reinhard Renter at a news conference on Tuesday, noting that the police had time on their side.

The police blocked roads and briefly closed schools and day care centers in the area as they pursued at least 140 tips.

A steady stream of police special forces, helicopters and mobile SWAT teams have swarmed the picturesque mountains around the village of 1,600 in southern Germany near the French border. On Monday alone, 440 officers were looking for Mr. Rausch.

Mr. Rausch is now wanted for “aggravated predatory extortion” for the four guns he took from the police, a charge with a minimum sentence of five years of prison; a local judge issued both national and European Union-wide arrest warrants.

Known as an eccentric character by locals, who say he often wore a heavy black coat even on the hottest days, Mr. Rausch did not have a reputation as being dangerous.

“I know him to be polite, friendly and pleasant,” one local told the SWR, the region’s public broadcaster.

But he did have a criminal history. Mr. Rausch spent more than three years in jail for severely injuring a friend with a crossbow after an argument. In the 2010 sentencing, the judge took into account that Mr. Rausch had tried to help his victim and called for medical help after shooting. He also has a police record in connection with car break-ins and petty theft, according to the local state attorney, Herwig Schäfer.

In a recent photo Mr. Rausch, who is 5 foot 6 inches tall, is seen in military fatigues wearing an equipment vest, a gas mask and night vision goggles. Police say there are no indications that Mr. Rausch is acting out of a political motive.

On Wednesday hundreds of police were still actively searching for Mr. Rausch and weighing options. One possible change of strategy: using the police helicopters’ loudspeakers to broadcast messages to Mr. Rausch in the hope that he gives himself up.

“Given his personality, it is also possible that he gives himself up,” said Mr. Renter, who is leading the search, “That he just says he’s done with it; that he says he can’t deal with this situation.”

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