For 23 long, grueling days, residents of upstate New York were on edge following the escape of inmates and convicted murderers Richard Matt and David Sweat from nearby Clinton Correctional Facility.
On Sunday, June 28, that unnerve was put to ease as Sweat was apprehended just two miles from the Canadian border in Constable, New York. Sweat’s arrest came just two days after authorities shot and killed Matt just five miles away in Malone, New York.
Personnel from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) were among the more than 1,200 law enforcement officials working together during the manhunt that began on June 6 and spread approximately 50 miles west of the prison.
According to Heist, ERO officers assigned to the USM New York/New Jersey Regional Taskforce in Niagara Falls, New York went to work immediately clearing family homes, properties and conducting interviews, along with the New York State Police (NYSP) and New York State Department of Corrections and Community Service officers.
As the manhunt prolonged, ERO reached out to U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) requesting their assistance in the search. Prison officials discovered letters written by Matt stating that he would travel to Mexico, specifically the Brownsville, Texas Port of Entry (POE), if he ever got out of prison. CBP was asked to relay this information, as well as photos and finger prints, to the Brownsville POE, and the other POEs into Mexico, and request they conduct outbound searches.
“We’ve had training in anticipation of this sort of thing, so we just had to brush off some skills and get to work,” said ERO Buffalo Deputy Field Office Director Tom Brophy. “Through our preparation, we were able to help effectively gather information, navigate the terrain and determine the direction of the inmates.”
Matt and Sweat escaped from a prison that falls under the area of responsibility (AOR) of the HSI Resident Agent in Charge (RAC) office in Rouses Point, New York. The majority of the manhunt took place near Rouses Point’s AOR, eventually moving northwest to areas near where the RAC Rouses Point and RAC Massena’s AORs meet. Not only did HSI officials assist with the search efforts for the two escapees, personnel provided technical equipment support to the NYSP. HSI special agents assigned to search teams assisted in clearing cabins and abandoned structures, along with “pushing” trails, fields and heavily-wooded areas devoting their assistance full time throughout the ordeal.
“The work done by our HSI personnel during the course of this event highlights the tremendous dedication to duty of our employees,” stated HSI Buffalo Acting Special Agent in Charge J. Michael Kennedy. “Our people worked countless hours to track and apprehend these two dangerous convicts. I know that the residents can sleep better at night due to the great work done every day by HSI and our law enforcement partners.”
Brophy echoed those sentiments.
“It was an honor to be able to help,” he added. “We have a duty to provide public service. That’s our mission – to help secure the homeland.”