David Sweat, left, and Richard Matt escaped from the maximum-security Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora, New York, on Saturday.
Police backed by K-9 units and helicopters staged a manhunt Sunday for two convicted murderers who escaped from New York state’s biggest maximum security prison by cutting through cell walls with power tools and escaping along tunnels.
Richard Matt, 48, and David Sweat, 34, pulled off the unprecedented breakout from the all-male Clinton Correctional Facility in the small town of Dannemora sometime between Friday night and early Saturday.
Police said the discovery was made during a pre-dawn bed check and warned the duo should not be approached.
The inmates reportedly left a taunting note behind on a yellow Post-it saying: “Have A Nice Day.”
The pair, who lived in adjoining cells, used power tools to drill through walls and pipes and left sweatshirts and other clothing in their beds as decoys to make it appear they were still in their cells, officials said.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said on Twitter he had toured the route the pair took to freedom, posting images of the path the men were believed to have cut to escape.
Overnight Saturday, police with bulletproof vests and rifles manned roadblocks on routes leading into and out of Dannemora, a village of some 1,700 people located 170 miles (270 km) north of the state capital Albany, near the Canadian border.
No one has ever previously escaped from the maximum security portion of the prison, which opened in 1865, according to Cuomo.
“These are two dangerous individuals, one was incarcerated for killing a sheriff, so these are dangerous people,” said Cuomo, who canceled a scheduled appearance at the Belmont Stakes horse race Saturday to travel to the prison.
— ‘Extraordinary act’–
“And they are nothing to be trifled with.”
He added: “By definition, it was an extraordinary act.”
More than 200 law enforcement officers were deployed in the search, assisted by a variety of tactical support, including K-9 units, SWAT teams and helicopters.
Matt and Sweat were found missing during a 5:30 am bed check, according to state police.
“Both are considered to be a danger to the
public. If located DO NOT approach them. Contact 911 or the New York State Police immediately,” authorities said in a statement.
It was unclear whether the men were armed or had received help in plotting their escape, nor how they got hold of power tools.
After cutting through the steel back walls of their cells, they reportedly clambered along a six-foot-high catwalk to access a twisting series of pipes and tunnels, which they also cut their way into.
They then made their way through the pipes and climbed up through a manhole onto a nearby street, The New York Post said.
The strapping Matt, who is six feet tall (1.8 meters) and has multiple tattoos — including a Marine corps insignia on his right shoulder — was serving a sentence of 25 years to life for kidnapping a man and beating him to death.
He also has tattoos on his back with the words “Mexico Forever.”
Sweat, who has tattoos on his left bicep and his right fingers, was serving a sentence of life without parole for killing a sheriff’s deputy. He shot the man 22 times, the New York Times reported.
About 3,000 inmates live at the prison, according to the Village of Dannemora’s website.
Rich Green, 58, who owns a pizza shop just down the street from the prison, said the manhunt had transformed the village.
“The whole town’s locked down,” Green told the Times.
“You can’t drive anywhere. You can’t come into town.
They’ve got detours all over the place.
They’re checking trunks. It’s just something I’ve never seen before.”