Officials say N.Y. prison escapee pointed gun moments before death

Reuters News
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Posted: Jul 02, 2015 5:32 PM

By Ellen Wulfhorst

NEW YORK (Reuters) - New York prison escapee Richard Matt was aiming a shotgun at a federal agent when the fugitive was shot and killed following an intense three-week manhunt, officials said on Thursday.

The convicted murderer was discovered last Friday lying behind a fallen tree near Malone, a town about 27 miles (43 km) northwest of Clinton Correctional Facility, U.S. Customs and Border Protection said in a statement.

Matt, 49, refused to put up his hands, authorities said. He was shot three times in the head by the Border Patrol agent, authorities said.

"An agent observed the individual fail to comply with the verbal commands and aim what was determined to be a 20-gauge shotgun at him," the Border Patrol said. "The agent discharged his service-issued M-4, striking the individual, who died at the scene."

Matt's fellow escapee, David Sweat, 35, was captured on Sunday in Constable, about 23 miles (37 km) from where Matt was shot. Sweat is hospitalized in fair condition after being shot twice in the torso.

The two men escaped from the maximum-security facility in Dannemora, New York, about 20 miles (32 km) south of the Canadian border, by cutting through cell walls, climbing a catwalk, shimmying through a steam pipe and emerging from an outside manhole, authorities said.

They were discovered missing on June 6.

In the wake of the escape, Governor Andrew Cuomo ordered an investigation of the prison. Its superintendent has been replaced after he and 11 other employees were put on administrative leave.

A corrections officer and a prison tailor shop worker have been charged with bringing a hacksaw blade and screwdriver bit to the two inmates.

At the time of the escape, Matt was serving 25 years to life for the 1997 torture, murder and dismemberment of his boss in Tonawanda, New York.

He was tracked down on Friday after apparently firing a shot at a passing motorist, and officers confronted him outside a cabin, authorities said.

Matt's son Nicholas Harris, 23, claimed the body, according to Syracuse.com and the Plattsburgh-based Press Republican.

The body has been transported to Tonawanda, according to the Plattsburgh funeral home where it had been held.

Harris told radio station WIVB this week he thought his father's death was wrongful and three gunshots in the head were excessive. He said he had not known his father, who was in prison when he was a child.

(Additional reporting by Pete DeMola, Editing by Barbara Goldberg and Will Dunham)