Escaped Convict Richard Matt Shot Dead by Police, David Sweat Still on the Run: 'We Will Search 24 Hours a Day Until We Find Him'
Richard Matt, one of the two escaped convicts, has been shot dead by law enforcement, PEOPLE confirms.
In a briefing Friday evening, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo confirmed Matt’s death. “This afternoon there was a civilian complaint in the town of Malone,” he said. “The state police responded, they came upon a cabin and detected the smell of gunpowder.”
He continued: “The customs and border patrol helicoptered in. They came upon Matt, they engaged Mr. Matt and Mr. Matt was shot and killed.”
David Sweat, the second escaped convict, remains at large, despite conflicting reports saying that police are closing on him. “We have no reason to believe Mr. Sweat was not with Mr. Matt at the time, but we have no evidence he was either,” Cuomo said. “We don’t have anything to confirm where Mr. Sweat is at this time.”
Added New York State Police Superintendent Joseph D’Amico: “At 1:51 today we received a report that a person towing a camper believed their camper had been shot, they thought they had a flat, realized they didn’t have a flat and realized there was a bullet hole through the back of a camper. They notified police.
“As the governor indicated, we deployed teams to that area, we discovered the smell of gunpowder,” he said. “A tactical team met up with Matt in the woods, they challenged him, we recovered at 20-gauge shotgun at that location. We have no actual sighting of Sweat by law enforcement.
“We are going to maintain the perimeter that we have and until such time as we receive other information, we will be doing a very thorough search,” he continued, thanking the people in the communities that have been searched. “We do understand it is very intrusive to have the level of law enforcement we have maintained the past three weeks. We remain vigilant. Sweat is out there We will search 24 hours a day until we find him.”
Meanwhile, Matt’s shooting is under investigation. “We will be taking statements from the team involved in the shooting,” D’Amico said. “They verbally challenged him and told him to put up his hands. There were no shots fired by Matt at the scene.”
In a statement earlier in the day, police confirmed that a man believed to be Matt was killed on Friday afternoon in Malone, New York. “At approximately 3:45 p.m. on June 26, a member of law enforcement spotted a man in a wooded area in the Town of Malone.
“A member of law enforcement shot and killed a man believed to be Clinton Correctional Facility escapee Richard Matt. A positive identification is still pending.
“Law enforcement are still searching for escapee David Sweat,” the statement concludes.
A source familiar with the investigation tells PEOPLE a resident found a liquor bottle at a campsite and alerted police to the convicts’ possible presence.
Mitch Johnson tells PEOPLE it was his friend Bob Wilette’s discovery of the bottle that led to the eventual shootout with Matt.
“He told me this morning, he went to check his hunting camp,” Johnson says. “He’d been checking it on a daily basis. He was checking to look for the prisoners. He went by himself. He went this morning. On a table, there was a liquor bottle out that wasn’t there yesterday. He went back home and called police.”
He adds: “The police came. He was talking to police outside. They heard shots coming from the woods. Bobby said it sounded like a shotgun. It wasn’t a rifle. The police told him to go inside. There was a shootout.”
When asked how he thought Matt got ahold of a gun, Johnson says, “There’s a lot of cabins up here. Some people might leave a shotgun in the cabin.”
The source familiar with the investigation adds that Matt also fired on a camper in what is thought to be an attempted carjacking. “Matt shot at a passing camper,” the source says. “911 was called. Police responded, and there was a shootout.”
Says Patricia Duffy, who lives in the area and is Johnson’s mother-in-law, “Police came out to talk to Bobby, and while they were there, shots rang out in the woods. They think the guys were trying to steal a camper. The next thing is, there was a gun battle, and Matt was dead.”
She adds: “I poked my head out a few times to see if I could see anything. I only saw police. They have all the roads closed off. I’m glad I came home when I did.”
No police were injured in the shootout, the source confirms. Officials remain unclear how Matt got ahold of a weapon.
Matt and Sweat escaped together from Clinton Correctional Facility three weeks ago. Two prison workers, Joyce Mitchell and Gene Palmer, have been arrested for aiding the convicts.
• Reporting by SUSAN KEATING and ALICIA C. DENNIS
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