Escaped New York prisoner fatally shot, other is on run

MALONE, New York
Published 28.06.2015 15:48
Updated 28.06.2015 15:51
New York State Police officers man a roadblock along Highway 30 as the manhunt for escaped convict David Sweat continues on June 27, 2015 near Malone, New York. (AFP Photo)
New York State Police officers man a roadblock along Highway 30 as the manhunt for escaped convict David Sweat continues on June 27, 2015 near Malone, New York. (AFP Photo)

The shooting death of one escaped killer brought new energy to the three-week hunt for his jailbreak partner as helicopters, search dogs and hundreds of law enforcement officers converged on a wooded area 30 miles (48 kilometers) from the upstate New York prison that once held them.

"Our preference would always be to capture them alive," New York State Police Superintendent Joseph D'Amico told a news conference as he announced late Friday the killing hours earlier of Richard Matt, one of the two killers who escaped from the maximum-security prison.

He credited a tip from the public, one of over 2,300 received so far, for crucial information leading to the deadly confrontation in the town of Malone.

The second inmate, David Sweat, has not been spotted since he escaped, though evidence was found a week ago indicating he was with Matt in a cabin that was burglarized about 3 miles (4.8 kilometers) from any paved roadway, the superintendent said.

The pair escaped from the Clinton Correctional Facility together early June 6 and Gov. Andrew Cuomo called them "dangerous, dangerous men."

Officers continued to focus Saturday on rugged terrain 30 miles (48 kilometers) west of the facility as they looked for Sweat. Police manned roadblocks in the neighboring towns of Malone and Duane as a helicopter buzzed over the woods.

Clinton County Sheriff David Favro said Saturday there is no evidence the two split up.

"Now it's a one-man show and it makes it more difficult for him," said Favro, whose officers are involved in the search. "And I'm sure fatigue is setting in for him as well, knowing the guy he was with has already been shot."

D'Amico said Matt was shot by a border patrol agent when he failed to comply with commands in the woods near a cabin where a shot had been fired earlier in the day at a camping trailer.

"They verbally challenged him, told him to put up his hands. And at that time, he was shot when he didn't comply," D'Amico said.

An intense search of the area led to a discovery Friday morning of a camp where somebody apparently had laid down, leaving behind candy wrappers and other items, D'Amico said.

The breakthrough Friday came shortly before 2 p.m., when a person towing a camper heard a loud sound and thought a tire had blown. Finding the tires intact, the driver went another eight miles before looking at the trailer and finding a bullet hole.

Authorities converged on the location where the sound was heard and discovered the smell of gunfire inside a cabin, where a weapon had been fired. D'Amico said there also was evidence someone recently had fled out the back door.

"As we were doing the ground search in the area, there was movement detected by officers on the ground, what they believed to be coughs. So they knew that they were dealing with humans as opposed to wildlife," he said.

After Matt was killed, a 20-gauge shotgun that was believed to be missing from the cabin he broke into last weekend was recovered from his body, D'Amico said. Matt did not fire it at officers, he added.

Police blocked off roads as officers hunted for Sweat in an area around Titusville Mountain State Forest in Malone and spanning 22 square miles (57 square kilometers).

Mitch Johnson said one of his best friends checked on his hunting cabin in Malone Friday afternoon and called police after noticing the scent of grape flavored gin as soon as he stepped into his cabin and spotting the bottle that had gone untouched for years resting on a kitchen table.

Johnson said his friend, correction officer Bob Willett, told him he summoned police about an hour before Matt was fatally shot and then heard a flurry of gun blasts.

Matt and Sweat used power tools to saw through a steel cell wall and several steel steam pipes, bashed a hole through a 2-foot (60-centimeter)-thick brick wall, squirmed through pipes and emerged from a manhole outside the prison.

Authorities said the men had filled their beds in their adjacent cells with clothes to make it appear like they were sleeping when guards made overnight rounds.

Sweat, 35, was serving a sentence of life without parole in the killing of a sheriff's deputy in Broome County in 2002. Matt, 49, was serving 25 years to life for the killing and dismembering of his former boss.

Two prison workers have been charged in connection with the inmates' escape.

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