Richard Matt, one of the two convicted murderers who escaped from a New York State Prison, has been shot and killed by police. Video provided by Newsy Newslook
On the 21st day of an intense manhunt for two escaped murderers, New York State Police said Friday that an officer had shot and killed a man believed to be Richard Matt in woods a few miles from the Canadian border.
A positive identification was pending, but law enforcement sources were reporting that the 49-year-old Matt was killed. He was serving a 25-years-to-life sentence for the 1997 kidnapping, torture and hacksaw dismemberment of his former boss when he escaped June 6 with his partner, David Sweat.
Authorities were pursuing Sweat and said they were closing in on him around Elephant's Head, near the southern tip of Lake Titus, in the Adirondack Mountains. He reportedly was involved in a gun battle with law enforcement early Friday evening, about three hours after Matt was shot.
The State Police said the man believed to be Matt was killed at about 3:45 p.m. after a "member of law enforcement" spotted him in a wooded area in the town of Malone, about 10 miles from the border and 30 miles from the prison. The State Policeannouncement did not say whether Matt was armed or had fired on the officer.
The Plattsburgh Press-Republican reported that he was shot just off Route 30, near a cabin where police said DNA evidence showed he had been Thursday. The New York Times, quoting two people knowledgeable about the situation, reported that Matt died in a burst of gunfire by law enforcement officers. The Times reported a second flurry of gunfire in the area several minutes after an initial volley.
The two men, aided by a prison worker and a guard, broke out of the Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora, N.Y. Sweat was serving a life sentence without parole for killing a sheriff's deputy.
State police earlier Friday said new evidence found at a campsite and field had given them a "high degree of confidence" the two escaped killers were headed toward the Canadian border, traveling primarily at night.
Major Charles Guess, Troop B commander of the New York State Police, said evidence found Friday prompted officers to concentrate their search north and west of Malone, about 30 miles from the maximum-security prison.
Matt and Sweat escaped by cutting through a metal wall and some pipes and tunnels, then crawling from a manhole outside prison walls. It was the first escape in 150 years.
Malone, with a population of about 15,000 people, is located in rugged, mountainous terrain in Franklin County.
The Press-Republican newspaper, quoting unidentified sources, reports that DNA evidence taken at two sites, including a cabin in the Malone area, confirmed the recent presence of the fugitives.
Similar DNA evidence showed that the pair had been at a hunting camp last Saturday in Mountain View, about 10 miles southeast of Malone.
Guess said Friday afternoon that 1,100 officers — local, state and federal — are involved in the search in what he called "rugged, tenacious" forests and mountains. He said the weather has been as hard on the inmates as on the officers looking for them.
As police concentrated their efforts in the new area, residents began receiving robocalls starting at 7 a.m. Friday alerting them to the increased presence of law enforcement officers.
One local resident, Clytis Primeau, a retired civilian communications specialist for the State Police, told the newspaper that stakeouts were set up every tenth of a mile along his road throughout the night.
Guess said the two men still appeared to be traveling together and had taken "basic supplies" from a cabin and had "dropped some items" during their trek.
Guess said there was no reason to believe that the pair had made it to Canada yet, noting that Canadian border patrols were "standing up a picket line to ensure they did not cross the border."
In Canada, Jeremy Laurin, spokesperson for the Office of the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, said Canadian security officials were working closely with their U.S. counterparts. "Canada will not be a safe haven for violent criminals and terrorists," he said.
Joyce Mitchell, 51, a prison worker, has been charged with aiding the escape, allegedly by hiding tools in meat.
A second corrections officer, Gene Palmer, has been arrested on charges of promoting prison contraband, tampering with evidence and official misconduct in connection with the escape.