One of two convicted killers who escaped from an upstate New York maximum-security prison was killed Friday by law enforcement officers near the Canadian border, according to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
Richard Matt was killed, Cuomo said. David Sweat’s whereabouts are unknown.
“We have no reason to believe that Mr. Sweat was not with Mr. Matt at that time [of the shooting], but we don’t have any confirming evidence that he was, either,” the governor said. “There are several leads that are being tracked down as we speak.”
Matt was killed in a wooded area in the town of Malone, about 40 miles west of Dannemora, where the prison is located, according to officials. Both towns are near the Canadian border.
New York State Police Supt. Joseph D’Amico said Matt was “shot dead” by a tactical team from U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
“We recovered a 20-gauge shotgun from Matt’s body at the location," D’Amico said.
Matt did not shoot at police during the encounter, authorities said.
“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.
Matt was tracked down after a motorist reported about 1:51 p.m. that someone shot at their camper near Route 30, according to authorities.
A cabin in the area of the shooting was searched and police found evidence that a gun had been fired inside and someone had recently left, D’Amico said. While searching the nearby woods, authorities heard coughs, which is when they encountered and killed Matt, D’Amico said.
Authorities continue to search the area for Sweat, D’Amico said.
“We have no actual sighting of Sweat by law enforcement, but we have no indication that Sweat wasn’t accompanying Matt at the time that he was shot and killed, so we’re going to maintain the perimeter that we have,” D’Amico said.
Both men had been on the run since they were found missing from the Clinton Correctional Facility on June 6.
Authorities have followed up on more than 2,400 leads, D’Amico said.
Matt and Sweat used power tools to saw through a steel cell wall and several steel steam pipes. They made a hole through a 2-foot-thick brick wall and squirmed through pipes.
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.
The search for the escaped inmates sparked a search that extended to the Mexican border and involved hundreds of law enforcement officials, including local police and FBI agents.
The news follows a flurry of possible sightings by reported residents in rural areas of New York, both near the prison and hundreds of miles away near the Pennsylvania border.
A strong lead came this week, when someone reported a burglary at a cabin about 20 miles from the prison. New York State Police seized items from the cabin to test for DNA and said evidence indicated the men “may have spent time” in the cabin.
Matt, 48, and Sweat, 35, tricked correctional officers at the prison by making dummies and stuffing them into their beds the night they fled. They were discovered missing at a 5:30 a.m. bed check on June 6.
Officials have said the men used power tools to cut through metal and brick walls and pipes, and then made their way via underground pipes to a manhole a few hundred feet from the prison walls. They emerged from the manhole and fled.
A civilian prison employee, Joyce Mitchell, was arrested June 12 and charged with a felony and a misdemeanor on allegations of smuggling hacksaw blades, chisels, a hole punch and a screwdriver bit into the prison to help the men escape. Mitchell has pleaded not guilty.
A second arrest was made Wednesday evening. Prison guard Gene Palmer faces charges including promoting prison contraband and tampering with physical evidence.
A $100,000 reward had been offered for information leading to the escapees’ arrest.
Matt and Sweat defied the odds in remaining at large so long, according to prison escape data compiled by the New York Department of Corrections and Community Supervision. Between 2002 and 2012, of the 29 inmates who escaped from New York state prisons, all were caught within three days.
Serrano reported from Washington and Parker from Los Angeles. Times staff writers Tina Susman, Matt Pearce, Christine Mai-Duc, James Queally contributed to this report.