Sun, Jun 28, 2015 - Page 7 News List

One escaped murderer fatally shot in NY woods

AP, MALONE, New York

The shooting death of one escaped killer brought new energy to a weeks-long hunt for a second escaped murderer as helicopters, search dogs and hundreds of law enforcement officers converged on a wooded area 48km from the prison.

“Of course our preference would always be to capture them alive,” New York State Police Superintendent Joseph D’Amico told a news conference late on Friday as he announced the killing hours earlier of Richard Matt, one of two escaped killers from an upstate 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 Malone.

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. A 20-gauge shotgun was found on him, although he did not fire it at officers, he added.

“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.

A second convicted murderer, David Sweat, has not been spotted since he escaped, although evidence was found a week ago indicating he was with Matt in a cabin that was burglarized about 5km from any paved roadway, the superintendent said.

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

The breakthrough on Friday came shortly before 2pm, when a person towing a camper heard a loud sound and thought a tire had blown. Finding the tires intact, the driver went another 13km 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 was also 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.

“Based on that, we continued to search. We have a lot of people in the area. We have canines and we have a decent perimeter set up and we’re searching for Sweat at this time,” he said.

D’Amico said he had no information that Sweat was not with or near Matt, so a heavy search of the area would go on.

The pair escaped from the Clinton Correctional Facility together early on June 6. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo called them “dangerous, dangerous men.”

Police blocked off roads as officers hunted for Sweat in an area around Titusville Mountain State Forest in Malone, which spans 57km2.

Mitch Johnson said one of his best friends checked on his hunting cabin in Malone on 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 gunshots.

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