N.Y. manhunt ends with second fugitive's capture, Cuomo says 'nightmare' is over

"This [search] was an extraordinary situation. This is the first escape [from the Clinton facility] in 100 years," New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said at a news conference Sunday.

By Doug G. Ware

CONSTABLE, N.Y., June 28 (UPI) -- Authorities on Sunday wounded and captured David Sweat -- the second prison escapee who had been on the run since June 6 -- and concluded an exhaustive three-week dragnet that involved nearly 1,500 police officers and, at times, spanned from New York to the U.S.-Canada border.

Hours later, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo declared at a news conference that the "nightmare is finally over."


Police closed in on Sweat this weekend after discovering traces of his DNA near the site where his accomplice, Richard Matt, was shot dead on Friday. With the help of a police helicopter and bloodhounds, officers finally caught up with Sweat in Constable, N.Y., on Sunday.

CNN reported Sunday that Sweat was shot twice in a field by New York State Police Sgt. Jay Cook and taken to a hospital in Malone and was listed in stable condition.


Constable, which is less than two miles from the Canadian border, is near the wooded area where Matt was also shot by police Friday.

Sweat was shot after Cook spotted him walking along a road in plain sight, around 3:30 p.m. EDT, and ordered him to surrender. When Sweat started running through the field, Cook shot him twice in the torso, an official said at a Sunday news conference.

Cuomo, who has been heavily involved in the manhunt, praised Cook for his actions and gave him some advice: "Go home tonight and tell your daughters that you are a hero."

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"He was alone when this happened. It was a very courageous act," Cuomo said. "This [search] was an extraordinary situation. This is the first escape [from the Clinton facility] in 100 years."

The capture of Sweat, 35, completes a laborious and expensive regional manhunt that endured for exactly three weeks in the U.S. Northeast and involved both state and federal law enforcement agencies.

Heavy rainfall in upstate New York this weekend complicated the search for Sweat and concerned investigators, who feared the precipitation might wash away vital clues to his whereabouts.


Matt and Sweat -- both convicted killers -- used an elaborate escape plan to flee from the Clinton County Correctional Facility in Dannemora, N.Y., on June 6. On Friday, after weeks of searching and next to no substantial clues as to the escapees' whereabouts, police got a major break in the case when an attempted carjacking along New York Highway 30, near the town of Malone, led officers to the wooded area where they ultimately found Matt hiding.

After encountering the fugitive, who was alone at the time, a U.S. Customs and Border Patrol agent fatally shot him three times in the head, the coroner's autopsy revealed Sunday. Suspecting that Sweat and Matt had remained together in their flight from police, authorities focused their search on that particular area -- although they subsequently expanded the perimeter to cover more than 20 square miles.

The coroner's autopsy cited skull fractures and brain damage resulting from the gunfire as the causes of Matt's death. The autopsy also revealed numerous bug bites, blisters and bruises "consistent with living in the woods for three weeks," the New York State Police said.

The extensive manhunt involved more than 1,300 officers from various agencies, including the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol. For 22 days, police searched towns and wooded areas across upstate New York that investigators believed were within reaching distance for the escapees. Roads were closed on multiple occasions, residents were asked to remain inside their homes and during some searches neighbors were even evacuated.


Two employees of the maximum security Clinton Correctional Facility were arrested during the ordeal and charged with aiding the prisoners in their escape -- which required Sweat and Matt to literally dig a hole in their cell walls and navigate an elaborate labyrinth of pipes and tunnels underground, from which they ultimately emerged through a manhole in a Dannemora street.

A prison manager, Joyce Mitchell, and a guard, Gene Palmer, are accused of delivering tools that helped the inmates in their escape -- some of which had been smuggled in a package of frozen ground beef.

Joyce, 51, a prison tailor, has pleaded not guilty to charges of promoting contraband and criminal facilitation. Investigators said Mitchell had become enamored with Matt and at one time agreed to drive a getaway vehicle, but ultimately backed out.

Palmer, 57, delivered the beef to the prisoners but claims he didn't know tools were hidden inside. A 27-year employee of the prison, he is charged with promoting prison contraband, tampering with evidence and official misconduct.

Immediately after the prisoners' escape, some likened the bold jailbreak to one seen in the 1994 film The Shawshank Redemption -- in which the character played by actor Tim Robbins digs a hole in his cell and crawls through a sewage pipe to gain his freedom.


"If you were writing a movie plot, they would say this [story] is overdone," Cuomo said.

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