A three-week manhunt that began when two convicted murderers staged a brazen prison break involving stolen power tools and hacksaw blades hidden in frozen beef, ended when a single state police officer spotted a suspicious man walking down a rural road near the Canadian border.
David Sweat's capture yesterday came two days after his fellow escapee, Richard Matt, was killed in a confrontation with law enforcement while holding a shotgun. Sweat was unarmed when he was shot twice by Sgt Jay Cook as the fugitive ran for some trees.
Cook, a 21-year veteran, was alone and on routine patrol when he stumbled upon Sweat in the northern New York state town of Constable, northwest of the prison, and recognised him.
He gave chase when Sweat fled and decided to fire upon him fearing he would lose the escaped prisoner in the trees, state police said.
"I can only assume he was going for the border," Superintendent Joseph D'Amico said.
The arrest ended an ordeal that sent 1,300 law enforcement officers into the thickly forested northern reaches of New York state and forced residents to tolerate nerve-wracking armed checkpoints and property searches.
"The nightmare is finally over," Governor Andrew Cuomo declared at a news conference.
Authorities said Sweat was struck in the torso and taken to a hospital in Malone before being transported to Albany Medical Center, which has a trauma centre. Sweat, who was listed in critical condition, was being evaluated by a team of doctors including emergency medical physicians, trauma specialists and others who would determine whether surgery was necessary. He will be charged with escape, burglary and other charges, Wylie said.
The men had been on the loose since June 6, when they cut their way out of a maximum-security prison about 30 miles away using power tools. Two prison workers have been charged with helping them.
D'Amico said the men may have used black pepper to throw off the scent of dogs that were tracking them; he said Sweat's DNA was recovered from pepper shakers found at one camp where the fugitives may have spent time.