Manhunt on for two convicted killers after New York escape

NEW YORK, USA – Police backed by K-9 units and helicopters staged a manhunt Sunday, June 7, 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 worthy-of-a-movie breakout from the all-male Clinton Correctional Facility in the small town of Dannemora sometime between Friday night, June 5, and early Saturday, June 6.

Police said the discovery was made during a pre-dawn bed check and warned the duo should be considered dangerous.

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 behind 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 toured the men's route took to freedom, posting images on Twitter of the path the men were believed to have cut to escape.

He later announced a $100,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of the fugitives.

Cuomo said the noise of the power tools could not have gone unnoticed.

"They were heard. They had to be heard," Cuomo told ABC News.

Investigators are probing more than 150 leads and have recovered some cutting tools but not sophisticated ones, Major Charles Guess of the New York State Police told a news conference.

As approximately 36 hours have now gone by since the breakout, and the fugitives may have had access to a car and outside assistance, "they could be literally anywhere," Guess said.

"We are leaving no stone unturned," he said, adding "they will be found and apprehended."

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 had previously escaped from the maximum security portion of the prison, which the Village of Dannemora says opened in 1845.

"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.

"And they are nothing to be trifled with."

'Extraordinary act'

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.

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 6-foot (1.8-meter) high catwalk to access a twisting series of pipes and tunnels, through which they also cut their way.

They then made their way through the pipes and climbed up through a manhole onto a nearby street, The New York Post said.

Matt, who is 6 feet tall 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 town.

"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." – Rappler.com