Prison escapee David Sweat was shot and arrested near the Canadian border on Sunday—ending a three-week manhunt that rocked upstate New York and saw his accomplice killed by police two days before.
Police sources told The Daily Beast a state trooper shot Sweat in the town of Constable, six miles from where fellow con Richard Matt, 48, was shot dead in Malone, New York, by a border patrol agent when Sweat refused to surrender.
Sweat, 35, was bleeding badly and had “life-threatening” injuries, the Buffalo News reported. He was in stable condition after being airlifted to a Malone hospital Sunday, police said.
“The nightmare is finally over,” Governor Andrew Cuomo said at a press conference with police officials. “It took 22 days, but we can now confirm as of two days ago that Mr. Matt is deceased and the other escapee, Mr. Sweat, is in custody.”
New York State Police Superintendent Joseph D’Amico said Sweat was shot twice in the torso after being spotted by a state trooper, Sergeant Jay Cook, close to a main road around 3:20 p.m on a road near Route 30—about a mile and a half from the Canadian border.
Cook was in his patrol car when he found a suspicious man jogging alongside the road. The officer exited the vehicle and called out to the man, who initially ignored him. D’Amico said the suspect turned around as if to say “What do you want from me?” and the cop recognized the man as Sweat.
The trooper was alone when he ran after Sweat, who was unarmed. As the fugitive approached a tree line in the mountainous area, Cook feared the inmate would get away, so the cop fired at him.
“Our intention … was to bring him in without having to use force,” D’Amico told reporters. “Sometimes, as in the case of Matt, where he was armed and presented a threat … sometimes force is necessary.”
“If Sweat made the tree line, who knows what kind of damage” could have transpired, D'Amico added.
The inmate—convicted of slaying a sheriff’s deputy in 2002—was undergoing surgery at a Malone hospital Sunday afternoon.
A high-ranking law enforcement official told The Daily Beast that Sweat was alive and in custody but his condition was unknown. The fugitive’s DNA was found on salt-and-pepper shakers recovered a mile from a perimeter set up after Matt’s death. The condiments helped lead police to Sweat’s location, the source said.
D’Amico said the inmates likely used pepper shakers to throw off the scent of police K9s in the search. “We did have difficulty tracking [them],” he conceded of the prisoners’ tactic.
About 1,300 cops and corrections officers swarmed a 22-square-mile area of dense woods over the weekend to find Sweat, who was dressed in camouflage when he was shot.
CNN tweeted a photo of a pale and bloodied Sweat being detained and wearing a heavy camo coat and pants.
New York authorities are continuing the investigate the prison break. They had not interviewed Sweat as of Sunday evening.
Meanwhile, state police released details on Matt’s autopsy—revealing the cause of death to be severe skull fractures and brain injuries caused by three gunshot wounds to the head. A coroner said the killer was in good physical shape, had been eating and drinking, and even showered and shaved while he was on the lam.
Matt and Sweat sparked a media firestorm after they fled Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora on June 6 and prompted an extensive search that consisted of hundreds of leaders and more than 1,000 cops and corrections officers.
The murderers used power tools to cut through a steel wall, reach a series of tunnels and exit a manhole cover outside the clink. A female prison worker—who police say smuggled tools for the inmates—was supposed to be their getaway driver but got cold feet.
Authorities closed in on the prisoners last week after a man alerted police of someone breaking into his cabin in Owl’s Head. The tipster found a jug of water, peanut butter, boots, and bloody socks at the hunting camp, and police identified the killers’ DNA on the items.
On Friday, police caught up to Matt after he fired shots at a recreational vehicle and the driver called 911. Investigators combing the area smelled gunpowder at a local cabin, then heard coughing in nearby woods. Matt was armed with a 20-gauge shotgun and was killed by a border patrol agent when he refused to put his hands up, police said.
Earlier this month, prison tailor shop supervisor Joyce Mitchell, 51, was arrested and charged with promoting prison contraband and criminal facilitation for aiding the prisoners’ escape from the maximum-security penitentiary.
She reportedly had sex with both jailbirds and smuggled hacksaw blades and other tools by hiding them in frozen hamburger meat. Corrections officer Gene Palmer was later cuffed for his alleged role in delivering the contraband to Matt’s and Sweat’s cells.
Both inmates are convicted murderers with terrifying histories. Sweat was sentenced to life without parole for shooting Sheriff’s Deputy Kevin Tarsia in July 2002, then running him over with his car before an accomplice killed the fallen officer with fatal bullets to the head. Tarsia was on patrol when he approached Sweat and his pals in a local park. The deputy was unaware that the criminals had burglarized a weapons store in Pennsylvania hours before.
Matt was serving 25 years to life for kidnapping, killing, and dismembering his elderly boss in 1997. He then fled to Mexico, where he fatally stabbed an American in a bar fight. He served time south of the border but Mexican authorities were so fed up with his bad behavior that they sent him back to the United States.