The fugitive couple that some had called a modern-day Bonnie and Clyde was captured at an Arizona campground last night after a three-week cross-country manhunt.
John McCluskey and Casslyn Welch were taken into custody near the town of Springerville, Ariz., near the border with New Mexico, around 7 p.m. The duo told authorities that if given the chance, they would have shot it out with police.
The beginning of the end for the escaped Arizona inmate and his suspected accomplice, who had eluded law enforcement for weeks, came when a forest service ranger saw an unattended campfire and a silver vehicle at a campground in the Apache Sitgreaves National Forest.
The ranger alerted local authorities and law enforcement discovered that the license plate on the car was stolen. A sheriff's SWAT team moved in and approached the pair, and made the arrest.
Apache County Sheriff Joseph Dedman Jr. lauded the ranger as the "true hero" behind the fugitives' capture.
"He made contact. He was out there doing his job when he saw these two fugitives. I congratulate the forest service officer for being vigilant out there on behalf of our community," Dedman said at a press conference today.
Fidencio Rivera, the chief deputy U.S. marshal for the Arizona district, who had been manning the hunt for the escaped convicts, told "Good Morning America" that the arrest happened relatively quickly.
"Within a couple of hours, [police] responded, put a team together and arrested the couple safely without anyone being hurt," Rivera said.
Authorities were concerned that the duo, believed to be white supremacists and considered to be extremely dangerous, would go out shooting.
"All of us here were convinced, that this was going to go down into a bloody shootout," said David Gonzales, the U.S. Marshal for Arizona said at a news conference late Thursday night local time.
But they was caught off-guard, with McCluskey resting on a sleeping bag, according to authorities. McCluskey, who was serving a 15-year sentence for attempted murder and other charges, told authorities if he had been able to retrieve his gun, he would have killed the officer involved.
"If [McCluskey] had his gun in his possession, he could have made an aggressive move towards the officers that were at the scene," said Dedman.
McCluskey also said he wished he had killed the forest ranger who tipped off authorities when he had first seen him.
Welch, who is McCluskey's cousin and fiancee, attempted to reach for a firearm but was disarmed immediately.
"Welch had a firearm in the small of her back...But as she pulled it out the SWAT officers had their guns trained on her and she dropped the weapon," Gonzales said.
The manhunt for the duo began July 30 and quickly turned into a nightmare for police.
McCluskey and two other inmates, Daniel Renwick and Tracy Province, escaped from Arizona State Prison on July 30. Officials believe they had help from Welch in escaping from the medium security prison.
They led authorities on a three-week cross-country manhunt, allegedly leaving in their wake a string of robberies and the suspected murder of a New Mexico couple in their 60's, but few clues as to their current whereabouts.