Prosecutor: Shootings of 2 escaped prisoners were justified

AP News
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Posted: Nov 12, 2015 3:49 PM

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — Law enforcement officials were justified in shooting two killers who escaped from a maximum-security prison in northern New York and led authorities on a three-week manhunt, a prosecutor concluded Thursday.

Glenn MacNeill, acting district attorney in Franklin County, wrote in his report on the shootings that there was "a very real concern" that inmates Richard Matt and David Sweat could be armed. Matt was ultimately killed, and Sweat was injured and captured.

Evidence showed the two broke into several Adirondack camps, MacNeill wrote. A shotgun was missing and they could have found other guns, the report said.

A border patrol tactical team found Matt lying by a log June 26, MacNeill said. He ignored commands to show his hands and instead pointed a shotgun at agent Christopher Voss, who then fatally shot Matt, he wrote.

State police Sgt. Jay Cook was on patrol alone when he saw Sweat who ignored commands to stop running and warnings that he'd be shot if he didn't, the prosecutor wrote. Sweat shed his backpack and ran faster, heading for the tree line, he wrote.

"Cook fired once, hitting Sweat who stumbled, but continued to move forward," MacNeill wrote. "Cook fired a second time, hitting Sweat again, who fell to the ground."

Matt, who had been serving 25 years to life for the killing of his former boss, and Sweat, who had been serving life without parole in the killing of a sheriff's deputy, escaped June 6 from the Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora. They cut their way through their cell walls, climbed down catwalks and through tunnels, cut into and out of a large steam pipe and then exited through a manhole.

They left behind a taunting note containing a crude caricature of an Asian face and the words "Have a nice day." They had worked on the escape route for months.

After more than three weeks on the run and a massive manhunt, Matt, 49, was shot and killed in a wooded area. Sweat, 35, was wounded and captured two days later near the Canadian border.

"In each instance, each of the escapees was given the opportunity to surrender before law enforcement utilized the force that they were justified in using," MacNeill wrote. Both were shot in Franklin County, where he is the top law enforcement officer, and he concluded both officers acted lawfully under New York's penal law.

Sweat has been arraigned on felony charges of escape and promoting prison contraband for possession of hacksaw blades. He's due back in court Friday.