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Escaped Pennsylvania inmate is now armed with a rifle, police say

Lt. Col. George Bivens of the Pennsylvania State Police briefs the media on developments in the manhunt for convicted murderer Danelo Cavalcante at Po-Mar-Lin Fire Company on Sunday.
Mark Makela
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Lt. Col. George Bivens of the Pennsylvania State Police briefs the media on developments in the manhunt for convicted murderer Danelo Cavalcante at Po-Mar-Lin Fire Company on Sunday.

Updated September 12, 2023 at 12:59 PM ET

The convicted murderer who escaped from a jail in Pennsylvania nearly two weeks ago and has continued to evade capture is now armed and considered extremely dangerous.

State police say that Danelo Cavalcante, who escaped the Chester County jail on August 31, entered a garage northwest of Philadelphia and stole a rifle.

At approximately 8 p.m. ET on Monday, a motorist saw Cavalcante crouching by the woods alongside the road, said Pennsylvania State Police Lt. Col. George Bivens in a press conference on Tuesday. The motorist drove back to confirm what she had seen, but by that time he was gone.

Troopers in the area formed a perimeter. A Border Patrol tactical team that has been assisting the manhunt also went to the area and found footprints in the mud, identical to the prison shoes worn by Cavalcante, said Bivens. Trackers then found both of his prison shoes. A resident reported that a pair of work boots had been stolen from her porch.

The search headed north and then at 10:10 p.m., a resident called police and reported that a short Hispanic male with no shirt and wearing dark pants had entered his garage while the homeowner was in it, and grabbed a .22 rifle that was leaning in the corner of the garage.

"The homeowner drew a pistol and fired at Cavalcante as he fled with the rifle," Bivens said, but Cavalcante is not believed to be injured from the shots fired.

"Cavalcante is considered armed and extremely dangerous," he said. "He is now armed with a .22-caliber rifle with a scope and flashlight mounted on it." He also has ammunition, said Bivens.

Law enforcement officers stand guard as the search for escaped convict Danelo Cavalcante continues in Pottstown, Penn., on Tuesday.
Matt Rourke / AP
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AP
Law enforcement officers stand guard as the search for escaped convict Danelo Cavalcante continues in Pottstown, Penn., on Tuesday.

The state police responded and a t-shirt and sweatshirt believed to belong to Cavalcante were found at the edge of the driveway. The perimeter was expanded to include that area.

Authorities believe that the theft of the rifle was a "crime of opportunity" as Cavalcante was looking for a place to hide, and he just happened to encounter the resident and spot the firearm.

Bivens reiterated the need for residents to secure items so Cavalcante does not make use of them. The escaped prisoner had also stolen a dairy van that had its keys left in it, though he later abandoned it.

On Sunday, authorities announced that Cavalcante had shaved his facial hair. His updated appearance was seen in a Ring camera as he tried to contact a former coworker.

The search area is about 3 miles east-west and 2 to 2.5 miles north to south. "It's a large area, wooded, hilly terrain," said Bivens.

Roughly 500 law enforcement personnel are involved in the search. Tactical teams searched the area throughout the night, including dogs and aviation tools. The authorities are "planning for an extended operating period if necessary," said Bivens.

A school district in the area canceled classes on Tuesday. Residents are being urged to call 911 if they see Cavalcante, but have not been ordered to shelter in place.

Bivens would not comment on whether Cavalcante has received any assistance. "What I will tell you is at this point, I believe he is beyond assistance, and he is in that perimeter, and we will actively hunt until we find him."

Cavalcante escaped incarceration by crab-walking his way to the roof of the Chester County jail, while awaiting transfer to state prison after being sentenced to life in prison for killing his ex-girlfriend. Prosecutors say he killed her to prevent her from telling authorities that he was wanted for a 2017 killing in Brazil.

Asked whether Cavalcante could resort to using the rifle, Bivens responded, "He has killed two people previously. I would suspect he's desperate enough to use that weapon."

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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Laurel Wamsley is a reporter for NPR's News Desk. She reports breaking news for NPR's digital coverage, newscasts, and news magazines, as well as occasional features. She was also the lead reporter for NPR's coverage of the 2019 Women's World Cup in France.