Over 300 law enforcement officers are part of "a lot of police activity" in Friendship, New York, this weekend in response to a possible sighting of escaped convicts Richard Matt and David Sweat, state officials said today.
A witness called police saying she spotted two men who fit the description of Matt and Sweat on a railroad line along Route 20 in Friendship near the Pennsylvania border Saturday at 1:16 p.m., state police Major Michael Cerretto said at a news conference.
Various law enforcement agencies, including aviation, K-9 and special operations teams were searching along I-86 and Route 20 to investigate the “credible” report, Cerretto added of the possible sighting in Friendship, which is more than 400 miles from the Clinton Correctional Facility where the men escaped earlier this month.
“We will continue to search this area until all leads have been exhausted," Cerretto said. "As we have in other areas of the state, we will search under every rock, behind every tree and structure until we are confident that that area is secure."
Law enforcement got to the site within 10 minutes of the call, which “came in immediately,” Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y. said today, adding the quick action gave police hope.
Schumer also said “one possibility” is that Matt and Sweat, who have been on the run for 16 days, “are riding the rails,” explaining there is a long train line that connects across southern New York they may have ridden.
While officials called the most recent sighting "unconfirmed," police advised residents to be alert and call 911 immediately, adding that there is a $50,000 award for information leading to the arrest of one of the men, or $100,000 for both.
The U.S. Marshals Service has also placed Sweat and Matt on the 15 most wanted fugitives list and is also offering a $25,000 reward for information that leads to their capture, police said.
New York State police previously said they were actively searching in Allegany County in western New York Saturday afternoon in response to a possible sighting of Matt and Sweat.
The convicts used power tools to cut through the back of their adjacent cells on June 6, broke through a brick wall, then cut into a steam pipe and slithered through it, finally emerging outside the prison walls through a manhole, authorities said.
Matt was serving 25 years to life at Clinton Correctional in Dannemora, New York, after he kidnapped and beat a man to death in 1997. Sweat was serving a life sentence after he was convicted of killing a Broome County sheriff's deputy in 2002.