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Escaped Killer Caught After 14 Days On The Run. Aired 9-9:30a ET

Aired September 13, 2023 - 09:00   ET



PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN ANCHOR: -- a press conference. Again, Danelo Cavalcante, after 14 days, has been taken into custody. We've been watching the process of him being loaded into the vehicle. You see on your right. A community can exhale, law enforcement can exhale, and a convicted murderer is now heading back into custody.

CNN's breaking coverage of the capture of murderer Danelo Cavalcante continues right now with CNN NEWS CENTRAL. Stay with us.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is CNN Breaking News.

SARA SIDNER, CNN ANCHOR: As you hear, we're beginning with breaking news. After 14 days on the run, escaped murderer Danelo Cavalcante has been captured in Pennsylvania. This is brand new video showing Cavalcante in handcuffs as they walk him to a van. He is surrounded, of course, by officers moments after he was captured this morning.

You're also looking just on the left there at live pictures of Cavalcante being transported now by law enforcement.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Look at the number of law enforcement surrounding him. That just tells you the story of what's been going on the last several days. Dozens and dozens.

Now, sources tell CNN that he was taken into custody without incident in Chester County. You can see right there, they're cutting his shirt off before they are putting him into the police van. Now, at this point, other than being told he was taken into custody without incident, we do not know exactly how he was captured.

So many of these details need to be filled in.


BERMAN: Exactly where was he found? What was he doing when he was found? How did he respond when law enforcement came upon him? We are going to find out all this information in the next several minutes. A press conference at 09:30 a.m. this morning.

Let's get right to CNN's Danny Freeman, who actually broke the news of his capture. He joins us live from Chester County. Danny, why don't you bring us up to speed on what you're learning.

DANNY FREEMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: John, listen, yesterday I came on the air with you and said that we got the update that so many had been fearing, that Danelo Cavalcante got his hands on a rifle. Well, today this is the update that so many had been hoping for for so many days. Cavalcante now in custody.

A source close to this investigation first let me know about a half hour ago. Now we see these stunning images of him being taken into custody by several law enforcement agents dressed in full tactical gear. Also Pennsylvania State police who have been running this operation. You can tell they also were right there as Cavalcante was being brought into custody.

We're still, of course, waiting to learn a lot of information about the exact nature of how they were able to take him in. We're expecting to learn that at a press conference around 9:30.

But I want to tell you a little bit about what we do know about at least the area and the situation that led up to this moment, as I said, that so many have been waiting for. It seems that Cavalcante was captured, frankly, right smack dab in the perimeter that Pennsylvania State Police said they set up over the course of the past 24 to 48 hours or so.

We've been watching helicopters all morning start to circle tighter and tighter and tighter over one area, maybe about 1.5 miles down from our position right here at the northeast corner of that perimeter. And then we were able to, as you saw that footage, see him come up with law enforcement in tow, holding him right there.

Now, the interesting thing that we also have learned just by seeing those aerial images and by watching the helicopter, it seems that he was around a creek area just perhaps to the west of Pottstown Pike Route 100, which we are here on right now.

Again, we'll have to see exactly where he was, how police were able to find him, but it really, honestly, does seem like the developments surrounding his capture unfolded within the past few hours, and then they got him, again, it seems at this point around 8:30, around that time. John, Sara?

SIDNER: Danny, let me quickly ask you about this. We're looking at these images of him being arrested. It doesn't appear that he's doing anything, trying to resist. Was there any word on how he acted when they finally got a hold of him that you heard from your sources?

And just to reiterate, on your left hand side of your screen right there under, Danny, you are seeing the live picture of a drone following the car that they are taking Cavalcante back to jail and ultimately to prison. But is there any idea of what exactly happened when he was first captured? Because when you look at these pictures, he looks like he is exhausted. He's wearing different clothing and --

BERMAN: Philadelphia Eagle sweatshirt. SIDNER: He's wearing an Eagle sweatshirt there, obviously, must have taken that from someone when he was going into homes. But any idea what he was like when he was captured, how he responded?

FREEMAN: Sara, I'm going to be completely transparent with you right here. When I called my source to ask the question if Cavalcante had actually been captured, I got the confirmation very quickly, and then that person had to very quickly get off of the phone to go deal with the apprehension that we have all been witnessing right here.


So I don't have specific information just yet about how he was brought in or what his demeanor was like when he was ultimately discovered and captured. We'll hopefully learn more about that in just a matter of minutes.

But here's what I can tell you. You know, we've been talking about this for quite some time. The last sighting of him that was confirmed was back on Monday night. There were two sightings that night. First was at 08:00 p.m., he was described as crouching on a road, and then police found footprints. And then, of course, there was that -- just after 10:00 p.m. incident where he stole that gun and was shot at.

But let's take a moment to recognize what has happened, at least in this environment since that particular moment. It was brutally hot for all of Tuesday, and then overnight, it was torrentially raining for many hours in this immediate area. So I think it's safe to infer that perhaps the weather was able to degrade him in this moment.

So -- but listen, you know, the other thing that I'll say just in terms of having covered this manhunt for so long, police have always said that they believe he was desperate. They believe that he had not received any help, basically since he stole that dairy van and came up to this part of Chester County.


FREEMAN: It seems that at this moment, once he was captured, the -- as perhaps Governor Shapiro said the other day, the jig was up and then this is what the scene is. But as you also noted, just I'll say --


FREEMAN: -- yes, there's a reason to believe that he had that Philadelphia Eagles sweatshirt prior to a spate of burglaries that have been sighted in this area over the past 24 hours. But certainly makes it a Philly area story, that's for sure.

BERMAN: So, Danny Freeman, hang on one second here, because on the right hand side of your screen, we're looking at some tape footage here. You can see all the law enforcement involved in his capture. And you can see a man on the right there is holding a rifle in his hands. We believe that is the rifle that Danelo Cavalcante had with him, stole from the garage and ran off into the distance.

And all these law enforcement officers in full tactical gear just posed for a photo with the man that they captured --


BERMAN: -- and the gun there. So that is what you just saw on your screen. Danny, while we still have you, we had been looking also at the motorcade of Cavalcante being taken somewhere. Is he going back right now to the prison, do you know, that he escaped from?

FREEMAN: So let me first address the -- that last part. There is no way, and Pennsylvania State Police has been very clear about this, that he's going back to the Chester County prison. Right from the start we were asking is that where he'd be taken once he's ultimately captured. And the state officials here say, no, we're going to put him in a state penitentiary and that will be the end of that particular discussion.

I don't know, though, at this moment, if that's the immediate direction where he's heading. There's a state penitentiary in Phoenixville, which is not far from where we are. And remember, Phoenixville is an area that he was seen on that doorbell camera when he changed his appearance and ended up being clean shaven.

I'm just, you know, looking at the maps and looking at where these choppers are right now. It seems he's still on State Route 100, traveling south of where we are right now up in South Coventry Township. Seems like he's heading towards Westchester, though, at this particular moment.

But, again, from everything that law enforcement has publicly said to us, I'd be very, very surprised if they turn to the west and head back to that Chester County prison. I think we're going to see him, if not immediately, very soon, head to a state penitentiary.

SIDNER: Danny Freeman, you have been all over this story. Thank you for breaking the news for us and for the community there who has been worrying for weeks now, two weeks now, about whether they will be safe. He has finally been captured.

BERMAN: I mean, how great is it to have Danny who knows the area --


BERMAN: -- there as well. That has been so helpful to understanding all of this.

SIDNER: It's true. We've got our John Miller, who knows a heck of a lot about law enforcement and how it works, as well as Andrew McCabe, who is with us today, too. I'm going to start with John Miller.

First of all, just your reaction to this. We had talked about how long it has taken in the past to capture people. We're talking about far more than two weeks. Here we are, no incident. He looks very calm and he is surrounded by dozens of officers.

JOHN MILLER, CNN CHIEF LAW ENFORCEMENT AND INTELLIGENCE ANALYST: So I think what you're seeing is what we thought, which is an individual who didn't have a support network, tried to access a support network, old acquaintances, maybe family members --


MILLER: -- but was unable to get anybody to pick him up and move him out of that area. I think from the look of him, he looks a little worn down --


MILLER: -- from being on the run for this long. And for how long it was, it basically fits into the model. You know, some of these can go on for a couple of months, most of them go on for a couple of days.


But when you've seen determined escapees, particularly in the woods where they have some ability to hang out, a couple of weeks is about par.


BERMAN: And Andy McCabe, in terms of what we can't see with our own eyes there, numbers. You get a sense of the numbers that were put into play for the full 14 days. But I have to say, especially the last 24 hours, from the moment that Cavalcante, we knew, sees that 22 caliber rifle, the number of law enforcement on the ground involved with this.

ANDREW MCCABE, CNN SENIOR LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Yes, that's right, John. I mean, that's a lot of police officers in that frame, but it is just a fraction of the number of men and women who are out there risking their lives in the woods, slogging through the brush, trying to find a guy that they knew could potentially be looking at them through the scope of a rifle.

500 was the number that we heard at the last press conference about 24 hours or so ago. That's a lot of folks to have on the ground and I'm sure they're all incredibly relieved right now. And let me also say there's -- we've been -- as we've been watching this, there's been some question as to why they cut all of his clothes off.

There's predominantly two reasons for that .One, he is a very dangerous, desperate person, been on the run for 14 days, armed himself. It's well known that prisoners, before they're taken back into custody, often hide things on their bodies to enable them to hurt officers later or to get out of their handcuffs. So you definitely want to take those clothes off when you have an opportunity to do so safely.

And secondly, you want to be able to do a pretty quick but thorough bodily inspection to determine he might be injured from this time out on the run. And you want to make sure you document his physical condition before you take custody of him inside of a car where he's locked in, essentially with only two officers. You want to make it very clear if he has been bruised or badgered or injured in some way that those things happened before he came into custody.

SIDNER: All very good points. I was wondering why they were cutting off the shirt when we were watching him being put into the van.

MILLER: I think another reason there is for purposes of identification. Right there, they don't have the ability to run those prints or take DNA, but --

SIDNER: Huge tattoo on the back.

MILLER: -- they do know from his prison records, all of his tattoos --


MILLER: -- that one and others, that they're able to do a visual inspection. Because, particularly if somebody's saying, I'm not that guy, you know, you're going to be able to pretty quickly find out these are unique markings that are unique to him.

SIDNER: Yes, it's a huge -- I think it's a bird or a hawk or maybe it's an eagle on his back that is very obvious, that would match whatever pictures they have of the suspect. I do want to ask you, John Miller, about the fact that he had this gun.

And at some point yesterday when we were listening to the press conference, the Lieutenant Colonel, you know, we really -- we think he's very dangerous, obviously, but we do think that he is on the run and just trying to escape, and you said the same thing. Is that the sense you get? Because he didn't -- we have not heard that he has used that weapon. And certainly the way that he is acting there is very docile now that he is surrounded by officers, he is not fighting them.

MILLER: So there's a bunch of things we don't know, and we're going to know them soon at this press conference. But the key factors are was he conscious, alert, and on the run with that weapon when they encountered him, or was he sleeping? He has tended to find hiding places and sleep by day and then operate on the move by night. So that's a possibility.

Did they capture him with that weapon or did they find it nearby? These are the details we're waiting for. But the key is, and what I got from, you know, the source I talked to who confirmed the capture was, you know, the basic information, was he's in custody. We're OK, he's OK. So it doesn't sound like it involved any serious use of force, but we'll hear literally in a few minutes.

BERMAN: Yes. Andrew McCabe, in terms of what we'll hear in a few minutes, what other questions do you have now? I do suppose one of the questions is what kind of help, if any, did he get? Did he seek it? Did anyone tip them off, tip off authorities here in a way that helped them get to this endpoint?

MCCABE: Yes. So those are all good questions, John. As to the whether or not he received help, you know, you're basically depending on him to speak about those issues. My guess is he definitely will not, right? He's in custody now. He doesn't have to speak. He's entitled to an attorney.

So they're not going to really -- unless he happens to be, like, overly cooperative, which for a guy who's been on the run for 14 days, I think that's highly unlikely. He's probably being very quiet. As to whether or not law enforcement had a tip that drove them to the particular point of capture, we're unlikely to hear that, I think, at the press conference as well.


I think what we'll get and what will be really interesting are some of those facts that John was just relating to, like, the conditions of capture. If he was on his feet and holding that weapon when law enforcement initially encountered him, I think it'd be really unlikely that they would have been able to take him into custody without some shots fired.

These officers are -- have been operating at the very limit, right, of their care and caution in approaching him. They know he's armed. If that thing was anywhere near his hands, it would have probably been very hard for law enforcement not to engage him in some sort of a firefight.

So my guess is likely he was a sleep or caught unawares and that the rifle was somewhere nearby, but not immediately within reach. But, again, those are the sorts of facts that I'll be looking for, and hopefully we'll get some -- we'll shed some light on that in the press conference.

SIDNER: In less than 15 minutes, we will definitely get some light shed on some of those questions and some answers to some of those questions, because we were expecting to hear from the law enforcement who captured him in the very area that they'd been searching. So he'd been hanging around that same area.

So has Danny Freeman, who has been there throughout from the very beginning of this. And I do want to quickly go back to you because I'm curious, I know you've been talking to residents. I know you've been talking to the folks there who have really been terrified.

They've closed down schools, and they told people to lock everything up and stay indoors if they can. Can you give us some sense of what you're hearing that people have been doing throughout this as they worried about a convicted killer who had stolen a gun and was still on the loose for so long?

FREEMAN: Sara, I think there have been a lot of emotions from a lot of the residents all up and down this stretch of Chester County where this investigation is really focused. You know, I've heard, on the one hand, you know, leading up until the moment of capture, of course, a lot of fear about an escaped inmate who is a convicted murderer being on the loose.

And I've also heard a lot of frustration, frankly, in the process because their cars were being searched, their homes had law enforcement coded all the time, and there was frustration because the search continued. The manhunt went on. He had not been captured.

But I got to tell you, the flip side of this right now, Sara, is you can feel that exhale, you can feel that relief in the area. Like I said, we've been standing on the northeast corner of the search perimeter inside of which Cavalcante was ultimately caught, and we've seen a lot of the troopers coming back north to one of their command posts at a nearby high school, presumably from that area just a few miles down the road where Cavalcante was caught.

You can see it on their faces. They look relieved. Folks here in this nearby gas station and residents have been coming to applaud the state troopers. The cars that have been coming by, normally sometimes frustrated by having to be searched. They've been honking their horns in support of many of these law enforcement officers as well.

So you can feel that exhale kind of come over this community because it's been 14 days of a lot of questions. One of the questions, of course, was how did he escape, really to begin with. We saw the video, but how did a corrections guard not see that moment of him crab walking the walls?

Then they established a perimeter around Longwood Gardens, that botanical gardens, several miles, 20 miles down. How did he break out of that, steal a dairy van and come up to northern Chester County where we are right now?

But listen, the police said and maintained yesterday that they believed they had him contained. They brought in a show of force, at least close to 500 officers. We saw armored vehicles similar to the ones that you saw in the video of him being taken into custody.

They had that show of force. They promised the public they had him contained. This time, they were right. And we saw that capture take place this morning. Sara?

BERMAN: And again, Danny, thank you. Stand by for a second. Just to bring people back up to speed where we are. Danelo Cavalcante, the convicted murderer who escaped from prison 14 days ago, taken into custody this morning, we are told without incident. We're about to learn what exactly that means.

A news conference will be held just a few minutes from now. On your screen beneath Sara and me right now, you can see live pictures of this armored vehicle carrying Cavalcante. We're not 100 percent sure where he's going, although John Miller, who's standing right next to us right now, suggests probably to a state police barracks where he might be processed in some way.

MILLER: They have a couple of things to do. One, it's still an arrest. They still have to go through the arrest process. They're going to need their own mug shot. They're going to need to confirm his prints. They're going to need to do all of those things you do with any other arrest. You can't skip it in this case.

Number two, they're going to need to find a Portuguese translator who can talk to him about a couple of things. Most importantly, you know, are you injured? Health things.

[09:20:10] They may have to do a medical check there, or they may have to take him to a facility, or they may have the medical check done wherever he's going to be transported in terms of a prison or a jail.

BERMAN: Just so you know what's switched on your screen right there. No longer do we have live pictures of the motorcade, as it were. We have pictures of where the press conference will be held in just minutes. And then you also have this tape footage that we're showing right now of the moment when Cavalcante after he was taken into custody by the dozens and dozens of law enforcement officers.

And importantly, behind him, you can see a man carrying a rifle.

SIDNER: It's the brown rifle where you see the flashlight on the top, that is believed to be the one that Cavalcante stole when he went into someone's garage. The homeowner was home, fired at him, apparently missed him, according to police, so we don't see any injuries on him there. And he was walking around with that or running around with that.

BERMAN: So they -- we don't know if it was on his body. That is one of the remaining questions. When he was captured, did he have it? Had he dropped it? But they're sure keeping it close to him right now, or they're keeping it within the frame as they are marching him in this video to the police van where he was being led, we believe, to a state police barracks.

SIDNER: And that video will widen out in a bit, and you will see just some of the numbers of police officers that are just there with him now. But there were many, many more. I think it was up to 500 members of law enforcement were on this search looking for this convicted killer. They have now caught him.

I do -- we do know one place he is not going to be taken. And authorities have been saying this, Danny Freeman, has been saying this because he's learned this also from authorities, he will not be taken back to the place where he escaped.

What happens, I'm curious, to that place, because this is the second time someone's escaped from that very prison? And when you saw the video there, with anyone watching, someone's got to be in big trouble at that prison at this point.

MILLER: So the warden has been on leave. The deputy warden has been in charge. The corrections officer who was in the guard tower has been dismissed. So they're feeling the reverberations there. But you also have a criminal investigation, which is separate and apart by the district attorney and the state police to see who was in on this.

You know, there's a prisoner who's in the front of that frame when he's crab walking, who appears to be acting as a lookout. Who knew what, what were their roles, all of that's going to be probed. But your question is institutionally.

SIDNER: Yes. MILLER: If that is a broken facility in terms of security, what's going to be done to fix that? And that's going to require from the county, from the governor, a top to bottom assessment of where's the staffing? Is that a problem? Where's the physical security?

Is -- are there repairs that are needed or the fixe is budgeted? If not, can the place remain open given the level of prisoners that are there? Or do they have -- or do the high risk prisoners have to be moved somewhere else? He was due to be moved out of there.

SIDNER: Right.

MILLER: He had just been convicted, he had just been sentenced, and he was about to move to a state facility which was going to be further away and more secure. And he understood. My opportunity is now.

SIDNER: And he's look at.

MILLER: I've been in this jail through the whole trial. I've been in here since, you know, 2021 likely. So I'm pretty familiar with the potential vulnerabilities here. If I don't make this move soon, I'm probably not going to be able to make it.

SIDNER: John, a good point.

BERMAN: John, standby for a second here. We want to bring in Stephen Gutowski, he's a CNN Contributor. His mother lives within the search perimeter that they've been looking through. And Stephen, you stayed with her last night. What has that been like in that area over these last few nights?

STEPHEN GUTOWSKI, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, it's been extremely stressful, as you might imagine. You know, there's been helicopters and planes overhead throughout most of the last night and the night before, so just really grateful that they finally caught him.

BERMAN: Did you get that reverse 911 call that we've heard from some in the area saying he'd been captured?

GUTOWSKI: Yes, my mom got the call, which was a relief to receive this morning, you know, after being up almost all of last night just trying to keep an eye out on what's going on around here. And, yes, yes, yes. And the police obviously released a statement as well so it's able. And Brian Flood (ph) from CNN texted me too, so I was very happy here.

SIDNER: You had a lot of people giving you some comfort this morning. I have a question for you, and if you don't have it with you, that's fine. Did you read it out? Do you have it near you? It'd be interesting to see what the residents there who have been waiting for two weeks and worrying for two weeks saw when it came into their phones. And I know your mother probably got the alert to be careful. Do you have it anywhere near you?


GUTOWSKI: It was actually a robocall, so my mom had signed up for alerts and they robocalled her. They didn't call me or text me or anything, but I was standing right next to her and it just announced that he was arrested. And I believe that there'd be a press conference later today.

BERMAN: And we are awaiting that press conference.


BERMAN: Stephen, we have live pictures of their screen of the lectern where it will take place. And we just did get a little bit of new information here. This comes from our Brian Todd, who's been on the ground there in Pennsylvania that Danelo Cavalcante was apprehended shortly after 08:00 a.m. And we found out about it shortly after that.


BERMAN: I mean, this is all within the last 90 minutes that this has happened. Stephen, I certainly hope you've been watching CNN all morning long and had a chance to see law enforcement holding that rifle that Danelo Cavalcante stole from a garage two nights ago. You, of course, we have you on as a firearms expert. It's a 22 caliber rifle with a flashlight and a scope there. Anything distinctive about it that you picked up?

GUTOWSKI: Not in particular, but I will tell you that, you know, somebody was trying to protect my family here in this area where this search is happening. What concerned me about it was that it's a rifle and rifles are effective at long distances

So, you know, that's what really bothered me about. I mean, 22 is not a very powerful round, but in a rifle, it can reach out pretty far and so he could shoot at someone I care about from a distance and that's what really concerned me about the whole situation, really.

SIDNER: You have been there now for a night. Your mom has lived through this for 14 nights. Can you give us some sense of how she was feeling during all this and how she feels this morning?

GUTOWSKI: Yes, she was pretty stressed out. I mean, she -- her work told her not to come in to stay, you know, at home to kind of avoid traveling in the area. The roads are closed around here, so it's difficult to get around and, you know, it's been -- it's very stressful. I mean, he was further south initially, so it was a little bit, you know, like a problem happening somewhere else.

And then suddenly he was right here where I don't think anyone expected him to show up. This is horse farms and woods. Not clear why he would have come out here, but no one was expecting. And then he showed up and everyone was pretty worried.

SIDNER: Well, they had right to be worried. The authorities were telling everyone to be worried as they were searching for him. Now, they can breathe a sigh of relief. They can go back to their regular lives, back to work, back to school.

I do want to -- you brought up something really important, John. You brought up the time that you just learned. Around 8:30 --

BERMAN: No, just after 8:00 a.m.

SIDNER: Just after 8:00.

BERMAN: We had it on TV at about 8:30.

SIDNER: Yes, we had it on TV, that's right. So just after 8:00. John Miller had spoken to this. He was trying to run around at night, trying to find his way out of this perimeter at night and likely sleeping during the day. 08:00 a.m., what are the likely chances here that he was asleep or he was resting --

MILLER: So I think --

SIDNER: -- pretty high,

MILLER: I think they're even, you know, because daylight was upon him and, you know, he has probably been trying to find places that are just far enough out of view to hide in. And what did you see with that team that walked him out? You saw the SWAT team --


MILLER: -- but you also saw two K9 officers. So those dogs had the scent of that green sweatshirt. Now when you are a fugitive on the run under the COVID of darkness and the only sweatshirt you can steal from the back of a dairy van happens to be fluorescent green --

SIDNER: Bright green, yes.

MILLER: -- you know, that's one you want to use for a very short time, but that gave them a fresh scent of him. That probably helped those dogs as they did this larger push into that perimeter today.

SIDNER: It's a good point.

BERMAN: We just want to thank Stephen Gutowski, if he's still with us. Stephen, of course, our firearms analyst here at CNN, who spent the night with his mother within the search perimeter. And you would heard helicopters all night long, Stephen?

GUTOWSKI: Oh yes, they were flying right over the farm. My grandparents are across the street, too. You know, they're in their 80s and 90s, so it's a very stressful night because exactly what you're talking about. I thought he was probably traveling at night and sleep, hiding during the day, so I had to be up at night to watch out for him.

BERMAN: Well, Stephen, we just want to thank you for telling us what you went through. Give mom a hug.


BERMAN: And your grandparents a hug for us. I think they're going to have a better day today than they've had the last few days. SIDNER: You've done what a good son would do. Thank you, Stephen.

GUTOWSKI: Thank you. Thank you, guys.

SIDNER: I do want to mention quickly, you know, I was just looking at their footwear because that's important when you're traversing this kind of wooded area. Every single one of those officers has on hiking boots, as does Cavalcante, it looks like.

MILLER: And those were recently borrowed --

SIDNER: Right.

BERMAN: Borrowed.

MILLER: -- from a front porch. Just before he obtained the weapon, you know, he stole those work boots --


MILLER: -- off a front porch, discarded his prison shoes, which, you know, gave him a little bit more of an advantage. Now when you're grabbing boots off the porch, you don't know if that's going to be a tight fit or --