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Second N.Y. escapee shot, captured near Canadian border

🕐 4 min read

MALONE, N.Y. — The second of two convicted murderers who staged a brazen escape three weeks ago from a maximum-security prison in northern New York was shot and captured near the Canadian border on Sunday, two days after his fellow inmate was killed in a confrontation with law enforcement officials, state police said.

A trooper shot David Sweat after spotting a suspicious person walking along a road in the town of Constable, about two miles south of the Canadian border and 30 miles from the prison, state police said. Sweat was taken into police custody and transported to a hospital for treatment of his injuries, they said. His condition was not immediately known.

State police said Sweat was not armed. They did not immediately say why the trooper fired at him. Fellow inmate Richard Matt was killed on Friday during an encounter with Border Patrol agents when he did not respond to an order to raise his hands, authorities said.

According to Sen. Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., federal law enforcement officers said Sweat was shot twice and coughing up blood as he was taken to a hospital. Schumer said no officers were believed to be injured.

Matt and Sweat allegedly used power tools to saw through a steel cell wall and several steel steam pipes, bashed a hole through a two-foot-thick brick wall, squirmed through pipes and emerged from a manhole outside the Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora on June 6.

Sweat was serving a sentence of life without parole for killing a sheriff’s deputy in Broome County in 2002. Matt was serving 25 years to life for killing and dismembering his former boss. They were added to the U.S. Marshals Service’s 15 Most Wanted fugitives list two weeks after getting away.

The search for the escapees was initially concentrated around the prison and in a rural community where search dogs had picked up the scent of both men. The search was later expanded to neighboring counties. Authorities acknowledged they could have been almost anywhere.

“It’s a little unnerving, him being so close,” said Constable resident Trevor Buchanan. “I’m just glad it’s over.”

The manhunt broke open on Friday afternoon when a person towing a camper heard a loud noise and thought a tire had blown. Finding there was no flat, the driver drove eight miles before looking again and finding a bullet hole in the trailer. A tactical team responding to the scene of the shot smelled gunpowder inside a cabin and saw evidence that someone had fled out the back door.

A noise — perhaps a cough — ultimately did Matt in. A border patrol team discovered Matt, who was shot after not heeding a command to raise his hands. He was shot three times in the head, according to an autopsy.

A coroner who attended the autopsy said Matt was clean, well-fed and dressed for the elements at the time he was killed.

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

Prosecutors said Joyce Mitchell, a prison tailoring shop instructor who got close to the men while working with them, had agreed to be their getaway driver but backed out because she felt guilty about participating. Authorities also said Mitchell had discussed killing her husband, Lyle Mitchell, as part of the plot.

Joyce Mitchell pleaded not guilty June 15 to charges including a felony count of promoting prison contraband, which authorities said included hacksaw blades and chisels.

Authorities said the men had filled their beds in their adjacent cells with clothes to make it appear they were sleeping when guards made overnight rounds. On a cut steam pipe, the prisoners left a taunting note with a crude caricature of an Asian face and the words “Have a nice day.”

Clinton County District Attorney Andrew J. Wylie said the inmates apparently used tools stored by prison contractors, taking care to return them to their toolboxes after each night’s work.

On June 24, authorities charged Clinton corrections officer Gene Palmer with promoting prison contraband, tampering with physical evidence and official misconduct. Officials said he gave the two prisoners the frozen hamburger meat that Joyce Mitchell had used to hide the tools she smuggled to Sweat and Matt. Palmer’s attorney said he had no knowledge that the meat contained hacksaw blades, a bit and a screwdriver.

— Associated Press

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