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Escaped prisoner David Sweat taken down by lone officer, say officials

Convicted murderer David Sweat receives medical treatment at

Convicted murderer David Sweat receives medical treatment at the scene of his capture in Constable, N.Y. on Sunday, June 28, 2015. Sweat escaped from the Clinton correctional facility in Dannemora, N.Y. on June 6, 2015. Photo Credit: Courtesy WWNY TV

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 yesterday, two days after his fellow inmate was killed in a confrontation with law enforcement, authorities said.

"The nightmare is finally over," Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo declared at a news conference.

"These were really dangerous, dangerous men," the governor said. "We could not tolerate them being on the loose."

While 1,300 local, state and federal law enforcement officers had been tracking the prisoner, David Sweat, in the end it was a lone State Police sergeant on routine patrol who took him down.

Sgt. Jay Cook shot Sweat in the town of Constable, about 2 miles south of the Canadian border and 30 miles northwest of the prison, after spotting him walking along a road and recognizing him.

Sweat fled and Cook pursued him, opening fire when he couldn't catch him on foot and saw the fugitive getting away, authorities said. The capture came 16 miles north of where the other escaped prisoner was shot and killed.

Cuomo said Cook, the father of two daughters, was alone at the time. He called him a hero.

Sweat, who was unarmed, was struck twice in the torso and taken to a hospital, Cuomo said. He was then transported to Albany Medical Center, where he was listed in critical condition last night.

Dr. Dennis McKenna, of Albany Medical Center, said Sweat was being evaluated by a trauma team that will determine whether surgery is necessary. He said he could not release further details.

Sweat had not been formally interviewed by investigators as of late last night, Clinton County District Attorney Andrew Wylie said.

Sweat will be charged with escape, burglary and other charges, Wylie said. The inmates are suspected of breaking into cabins while on the lam. Wylie said prosecutors would wait for Sweat to recover before charging him.

Trooper was 'courageous'

State Police Superintendent Joseph D'Amico said Cook fired "because he thought he [Sweat] was going to make it to the tree line."

He called the trooper's actions a "very courageous act of policing," adding, "if Sweat had made it to the tree line, who knows what kind of damage" he could have done.

Cuomo said of the capture: "If it had to happen, this is the way you want it to end."

D'Amico said searchers -- including State Police, U.S. marshals, the FBI and local police departments -- had been closing in on Sweat in the upstate area where he was shot.

"We can only assume he was going for the border," D'Amico said.

D'Amico said DNA found on a pepper shaker at the scene of a recent burglary in the area was linked back to Sweat, so police knew he was in the area. He said the pepper had probably been used to throw off the dogs tracking his scent.

"It was effective," said D'Amico, who said the dogs had in fact lost his scent.

Fellow escaped inmate Richard Matt was armed when he was killed Friday afternoon during an encounter with border patrol agents after failing to respond to an order to raise his hands.

Matt and Sweat used power tools to saw through a steel cell wall and steel steam pipes; bashed a hole through a 2-foot-thick brick wall; squirmed through pipes; and emerged from a manhole outside the Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora on June 6.

"If you were writing a movie plot, you would say this is overdone," Cuomo said.

Sweat was serving a sentence of life without parole in the killing of 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 was initially concentrated around the prison and a rural community where search dogs had caught the scent of both men.

LI woman's story

But law enforcement later expanded it and a Roslyn woman who has a home in upstate Malone may have played a role in narrowing the search, she said, after one of the convicts came to her house in the middle of the night.

Carla Gerber of Roslyn was visiting her second home about 45 miles west of the Clinton Correctional Facility when, she said, she heard three loud knocks on her front glass door Saturday morning about 2 a.m.

Gerber, in a phone interview, said she was "terrified" and felt paralyzed. She believes a flood light from a passing patrol car may have scared off whoever was at the door.

The next morning she called authorities, who dusted her door Saturday afternoon, finding fingerprints believed to belong to Sweat, she said.

"I don't know what prompted me not to go to the door," Gerber said. "If I would have gone to the door, maybe I would not have been here any longer."

State police could not immediately confirm her version of events Sunday night.

Gerber's late husband purchased the home a few years ago, she said.

Intense search concludes

The manhunt broke open 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 8 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 failing to heed 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.

With Laura Figueroa


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