- Associated Press - Sunday, June 28, 2015

The second of two convicted murderers who staged a brazen escape three weeks ago from a maximum-security prison in northern New York is in critical condition Sunday night after being shot and captured near the Canadian border earlier in the day.

Multiple news reports said escapee David Sweat is in “critical condition,” according to the Albany Medical Center, where he was sent after being shot and captured Sunday afternoon.

Dr. Dennis McKenna says Sweat was transported to Albany Medical Center on Sunday night and is being evaluated by a trauma team to determine whether surgery is necessary. He said he cannot release further details, citing privacy laws.

New York State Police say Sgt. Jay Cook shot Sweat, who was serving life imprisonment for murdering a sheriff’s deputy, after seeing a suspicious man walking down a road in Constable, a town about two miles from the Canadian border.

Sweat was taken into police custody two days after fellow inmate Richard Matt was killed in a confrontation with law enforcement, state police said.

“The nightmare is finally over,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo declared at a news conference.

State police did not immediately say why the trooper fired at Sweat or whether he was armed. Matt was killed Friday afternoon during an encounter with border patrol agents when he failed to respond to an order to raise his hands.

According to U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer, New York Democrat, federal law enforcement said Sweat was shot twice and coughing up blood as he was taken to a hospital. He said no officers were believed to be injured.

Matt and Sweat used power tools to saw through a steel cell wall and several 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.

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 the killing and dismembering of 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 for the escaped killers was initially concentrated around the prison and a rural community where search dogs had caught the scent of both men. The search had since been expanded to neighboring counties, and, while authorities said there was no evidence the men had gotten out of the general area, they conceded they could have been almost anywhere.

“It’s a little unnerving, him being so close,” said Constable resident Trevor Buchanan. “I’m just glad it’s over.”

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 eight 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.

A pair of prison workers has been charged in connection with the inmates’ escape.

Prosecutors said Joyce Mitchell, a prison tailoring shop instructor who got close to the men while working with them, had agreed to be their getaway driver but backed out because she felt guilty for participating. Authorities also said Mitchell had discussed killing her husband, Lyle Mitchell, as part of the plot.

Joyce Mitchell pleaded not guilty June 15 to charges including felony promoting prison contraband, which authorities said included hacksaw blades and chisels.

Authorities said the men had filled their beds in their adjacent cells with clothes to make it appear they were sleeping when guards made overnight rounds. On a cut steam pipe, the prisoners left a taunting note containing a crude caricature of an Asian face and the words “Have a nice day.”

Clinton County District Attorney Andrew Wylie said the inmates apparently used tools stored by prison contractors, taking care to return them to their toolboxes after each night’s work.

On June 24, authorities charged Clinton correction officer Gene Palmer with promoting prison contraband, tampering with physical evidence and official misconduct. Officials said he gave the two prisoners the frozen hamburger meat Joyce Mitchell had used to hide the tools she smuggled to Sweat and Matt. Palmer’s attorney said he had no knowledge that the meat contained hacksaw blades, a bit and a screwdriver.

Dannemora, built in 1845, occupies just over 1 square mile within the northern reaches of the Adirondack Forest Preserve and is surrounded by forest and farmland. The stark white perimeter wall of the prison, topped with guard towers, borders a main street in the village’s business district.

Associated Press writers Carolyn Thompson in Buffalo, New York, and Deepti Hajela in New York City contributed to this report.

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