David Sweat, one of two New York state inmates who escaped from prison three weeks ago, was shot by police near the Canadian border and rushed to a local hospital on Sunday, two days after his accomplice was killed, authorities said.
His capture was the dramatic climax of a massive manhunt for Sweat and fellow inmate Richard Matt, who were discovered missing from the Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora, New York, on June 6th. Some 1,300 members of the police force took part in the search through the forests and bogs of northern New York.
Sweat (35) was shot twice and taken into custody in the town of Constable, 37 km north of Duane, where his accomplice was fatally shot on Friday, authorities said. He was captured just 2.4 km south of New York's border with the Canadian province of Quebec.
Sergeant Jay Cook of the New York State Police was on patrol alone when he spotted "a suspicious man walking down a roadway" at about 3:20pm local time.
Cook called out to the individual, and when he turned the officer recognized him as Sweat, police said.
The fugitive took off running and the officer shot him twice in the torso, police said. Sweat was taken into custody and transported to a local hospital for treatment.
“The nightmare is finally over,” New York state Governor Andrew Cuomo told a news conference. “If you were writing a movie plot, they would say this was overdone.” He added that Sweat was in stable condition.
Cuomo said he had personally congratulated the officer.
“It was a very courageous act. I said to Sgt. Cook, who has two daughters, 16 and 17, ‘You go home tonight and tell your daughters you’re a hero,’” the governor said.
CNN showed a photograph of pale, gaunt-looking Sweat after he was captured, seated on the ground in a dark jacket and muddy camouflage clothing. He appeared to have dried blood on his face.
Sweat has not been interviewed by investigators yet, Joseph D’Amico, superintendent of the New York State police, told the same news conference.
D’Amico, who said police had intended to apprehend Sweat without using force if possible, said he did not know when the two fugitives parted ways during their three-week trek.
Security was tight outside the Alice Hyde Medical Center in Malone, where Sweat was first taken.
Sweat’s mother Pamela told a CNN affiliate in upstate New York that she sighed with relief and then started crying when she heard her son was caught but not killed.
She said he had known better than to seek help from her.
"If he would've come here, I would've knocked him out and had them guys take him to the jail," Pamela Sweat said. "I've always done to it to him when he was bad."
Capturing the suspect alive should enable New York state prison authorities to learn more about how the pair managed to break out and use that information to tighten security.
In their audacious breakout, the pair cut through cell walls, climbed along a catwalk, shimmied through a steam pipe and emerged from a manhole outside prison walls, authorities said.
Matt (49) was shot and killed on Friday near Malone, about 43km northwest of the maximum-security prison, by a member of the US Customs and Border Protection tactical unit.
Autopsy results released earlier on Sunday showed he was shot three times in the head and died of severe skull fractures and brain injuries.
Matt also had bug bites, blisters and minor abrasions “consistent with living in the woods for three weeks,” the New York State Police said in a statement.
The manhunt for the pair had scoured a remote, heavily wooded area where law enforcement agents worked around the clock in scorching weather and driving rain using infrared devices and listening posts.
Sweat had been serving a life sentence without parole since 2003 for killing a New York sheriff’s deputy.
Matt was convicted in the 1997 torture, murder and dismemberment of his boss in Tonawanda, New York.
Two prison workers have been charged with aiding in the escape. Gene Palmer, a 57-year-old corrections officer, is accused of bringing hacksaw blades and a screwdriver bit to the inmates, hidden in frozen hamburger meat supplied by Joyce Mitchell (51) a training supervisor in the prison tailor shop.