Danelo Cavalcante: Police dog ‘subdued’ crawling Pennsylvania fugitive

Danelo Souzab Cavalcante capture
Escaped prisoner Danelo Cavalcante is captured by authorities Wednesday, Sept. 13, 2023, after two weeks on the run. (Image: Pennsylvania State Police)

A police dog set upon a fugitive as he tried to crawl away in thick underbrush two weeks after his escape from a prison in the US state of Pennsylvania, authorities have said.

Danelo Cavalcante, 34, was arrested in a wooded area after an aircraft picked up his heat signal overnight.

More than 500 officers hunted him down after he escaped on 31 August.

He was sentenced last month to life for killing his ex-girlfriend in front of her two young children in April 2021.

At a news conference, Pennsylvania Governor Josh Shapiro said Cavalcante was “apprehended with no shots fired” shortly after 08:00 local time (12:00 GMT) on Wednesday.

He credited the “extraordinary work” of law enforcement and “a tremendous assist from members of the public” for Cavalcante’s capture.

Police told reporters that a search team of mounted patrols, dogs and aircraft had fanned out over the woods of South Coventry Township through rain and thunder overnight.

Law enforcement were drawn closer to Cavalcante by a burglar alarm at a home.

A Drug Enforcement Administration plane picked up a heat signal on the ground at 01:00, but the aircraft had to fly away because of the foul weather.

A tactical team of around two dozen officers began closing in on the heat source at around 04:00, ultimately pinpointing Cavalcante four hours later.

Pennsylvania State Police Lt Colonel George Bivens told the news conference: “They were able to move in very quietly. They had the element of surprise.

“Cavalcante did not realise he was surrounded until that had occurred. That did not stop him from trying to escape.

“He began to crawl through thick underbrush taking his [stolen] rifle with him as he went.”

A US Customs and Border Protection unit from Texas, with at least one dog, was part of the tactical team.

The dog “subdued” Cavalcante as he tried to make his getaway, leaving him with a “minor bite wound”.

“He continued to resist but was forcibly taken into custody,” said Lt Col Bivens.

Cavalcante was left with “a scalp wound” and will be “medically assessed” before being taken to a prison facility, said officials.

He will appear in court on a felony escape charge in the near future, Philadelphia’s attorney general said in a statement.

Danelo Cavalcante

Local media footage shows a handcuffed Cavalcante, in a dirty Philadelphia Eagles sweatshirt, being escorted to an armoured black police van.

 

A large team of officers in camouflage uniforms is seen posing for photos with their captive before cutting him out of the hoodie and loading him into the vehicle.

Lt Col Bivens said he was “not bothered at all” that officers had taken the picture.

“Those men and women work amazingly hard through some very trying circumstances. They’re proud of their work,” he told reporters.

Chester County’s three commissioners said in a joint statement that Cavalcante’s capture “ends the nightmare of the past two weeks”.

They said prison officials had made “some immediate changes to bolster security in the prison”, including hiring new security contractors.

Just a week after being sentenced to life without parole, Cavalcante “crab-walked” between two walls and scaled a razor-wire fence to escape Chester County Prison, about 30 miles (50km) west of Philadelphia, where he had been awaiting transfer to a different facility.

His method of escape was the same used by another inmate, Igor Bolte, in May. The glaring security lapse at the prison and the lone fugitive’s evasion of a manhunt involving officers equipped with night-vision goggles, dogs, drones and aerial support for a fortnight embarrassed the authorities.

Residents of Chester County had been on edge amid multiple recent sightings, with one local TV station even reporting an uptick in sales at gun shops.

While on the run, police said Cavalcante had tried to contact associates, including his sister. She did not help him and was later taken into custody for an immigration violation.

On Tuesday, they warned that the escaped murderer had entered an open garage in the area and fled with a .22 calibre rifle as the homeowner fired several shots in his direction.

Family members of the ex-girlfriend he murdered, Deborah Brandão, have been under 24-hour police protection.

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Cavalcante’s escape and arrest have made headlines in his native Brazil, where social media users celebrated the end of the manhunt.

In an interview with Brazilian news website G1, Brandão’s sister said that the arrest “brings a lot of relief”.

“We were afraid that he would seek revenge against my family,” Silvia Brandão told the outlet. “We were very afraid because you know what he is capable of.”

In addition to murdering Brandão, Cavalcante is accused of murdering a young friend over an unpaid debt in the central Brazilian state of Tocantins in 2017.

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