Note: This article will be updated.
Escaped convict Danelo Cavalcante is now not just dangerous but also armed.
Cavalcante, the convicted murderer who escaped from Chester County prison on August 31, went into an open garage Monday, took a rifle, and encountered the homeowner, State Police Lt. Col. George Bivens said during a Tuesday morning press conference. The homeowner fired some shots from a few feet away. Cavalcante took off and was apparently uninjured, Bivens said.
“He’s extremely dangerous,” said Bivens. “He’s now armed with a .22-caliber rifle with a scope and flashlight mounted on it.”
“We consider him desperate. We consider him dangerous. All this does is confirm for us he has a weapon,” said Bivens. “He’s killed two people previously. I would consider he’s desperate enough to use that weapon.”
“It was a crime of opportunity,” Bivens said. “He went in there to hide. The garage door was open. He did not recognize the owner was in there. He was probably looking for a hiding place and ran through that garage. Saw the firearm, grabbed that, encountered the homeowner, and fled with the firearm.”
Cavalcante has been evading capture — and making headlines — for nearly two weeks. He crab-walked up between two prison walls, onto a roof, and pushed through razor wire to freedom. Another inmate used the same method to escape in May but was captured quickly because a tower guard saw him. Officials fired the guard who failed to see Cavalcante’s exit.
Over the weekend, the escaped murderer stole a van from a dairy and traveled some 20 miles until it ran out of gas. He has also approached people trying to get help, officials said.
As of Tuesday morning, searchers are focused on an eight to 10-mile area of Coventry and East Nantmeal townships. The police sent reverse 911 messages to people in the area and also notified schools. The Owen J. Roberts School District closed its schools. In Pottstown, students were being kept indoors on Tuesday.
“The current perimeter includes PA (Route) 23 to the north, PA (Route) 100 to the east, Fairview and Nantmeal roads to the south, and Iron Bridge and County Park Roads to the west,” said Bivens. About 500 officers from various agencies are searching for Cavalcante, dogs, and equipment.
Bivens asked nearby residents to secure their homes, vehicles, and outbuildings.
Answering questions from reporters, Bivens said he does not believe Cavalcante was injured when the homeowner shot at him, although the owner fired several shots.
“I think he’s just trying to survive and avoid being captured right now,” said Bivens.
“We’re not evacuating homes at this point,” said Bivens. “We’re asking residents to be vigilant and lock their doors.”
The area is hilly and wooded, he said. There are streams, tunnels, and ditches.
“He is in that perimeter, and we will actively hunt until we find him,” said Bivens.
The search area is three miles east to west, two miles north to south, and is about eight to 10 square miles.
“No perimeter is ever 100 percent impenetrable. We have stood up a very strong perimeter. We will do our very best to contain him in there and capture him,” said Bivens. “We will continue until we locate him.”
“We’ve been utilizing tactical teams. Just because we’ve found a footprint doesn’t necessarily mean we know what direction he traveled in. He had traveled south and then went back north,” he said.
Bivens said he has been in “regular communication” with Gov. Josh Shapiro’s office.
“The governor has been closely monitoring this situation. He has offered any necessary resources. ”
Guy Ciarrocchi, former Deputy Attorney General and a Chester County resident, said, “Day 13. For residents of Coventry, Nantmeal, the students, and families in Owen J. Roberts Schools, this isn’t just another news story; it’s real life. An armed double-murderer is on the loose and will do anything to survive. We continue to ask without answers: How did this happen, just months after it did before? Why wasn’t the public notified as soon as possible? Why did a short-staffed prison accept a murderer? Why weren’t more K-9s available? Why weren’t the state police and U.S. Marshals called in for almost a week? This is a tragedy. I pray it ends before anyone else is harmed, or worse.”
Bivens defended the search efforts.
“Our law enforcement people have done an amazing job, tracking and locating him. That proverbial needle in the haystack, and they’ve located that needle repeatedly. People have done an amazing job. I’m very proud of the work they’ve done and continue to do. There is nothing gone wrong. Our agencies are all working very well together, and I believe we will be successful in the long run.”
“We’re making every effort to find him as rapidly as we possibly can,” Bivens added.
“It is imperative that anyone with information about Cavalcante contact us immediately so we can act on it in a timely manner,” said Bivens. They can call 911 or the tipline: (717) 562-2987. There is now a $25,000 reward.
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