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Escaped Killer Caught After 14 Days on the Run. Aired 10-10:30a ET
Aired September 13, 2023 - 10:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: At the end of the day all the people behind me here work for justice and for the victims.
A close second to the people of Chester County, we appreciate your support and we appreciate the dedication that you and have shown us in the generosity that you have shown us. We are in your debt. This was a major operation, we know that it has affected your lives and we're very much appreciative of that support.
I'd like to thank the governor and his support of us, not only with his physical presence but his work in Harrisburg on a daily basis. I'd like to thank the Border Patrol, Customs the FBI, the Marshals, the ATF, our federal partners, the Chester County district attorney, Deb Ryan, and her chief county detective, Dave Sassa, our municipal partners too numerous to mention here in Chester, Montgomery, Delaware and Bucks Counties. We could not have done this without everyone.
I would like to from the bottom of our hearts the members of the Po- Mar-Lin Fire Company. I know the media has been in and out of here. The hospitality that they have shown us, the logistics that you need to bring to bear in an operation like this, we would have been hard pressed to do that without them being good host to us.
Lastly, but certainly not least in any way shape or form, to the women and men of the Pennsylvania State Police, thank you. Thank you for your hard work and your diligence.
This is my third manhunt with Lieutenant Colonel George Bevins. It's not lost on me that it was nine years to the day yesterday for the Blooming Grove ambush. And in all of those operational cycles, there is no person who enjoys more of my trust and confidence. He was tasked with standing this operation up. My confidence in him is marrow deep.
He is the consummate professional, and I would now like to turn it over to Lieutenant Colonel Bivens to give you the operational rundown of the capture of Cavalcante. Lieutenant Colonel Bivens.
LT. COL. GEORGE BIVENS, PENNSYLVANIA STATE POLICE: Thank you, Governor. Thank you, Colonel.
It is a true pleasure to stand here this morning and talk to all of you about bringing this manhunt to a successful conclusion, and without getting anyone else hurt, most importantly. None of this would be possible without the support of this team represented by members of various agencies standing with us up here, by others standing throughout this process, this fire hall, and by still more who are out there in the field.
So, let me give you a few details about how this unfolded. As you know, we have been working most recently in a perimeter established in Northern Chester County. Last night, shortly after midnight, a series of events started to unfold.
First, we had a burglar alarm at a residence near Prizer Road within the perimeter. Our people investigated that, did not find Cavalcante there or anyone else, but it started to bring some of our people into that area.
We had been searching an area not far from there already with some tactical teams that night. There was an aircraft overhead utilizing FLIR technology, and close to 1:00 A.M., picked up a heat signal that they began to track. It was west of PA 100 and north of Prizer Road.
Tactical teams began to converge on that location where the heat source was moving. Unfortunately, we had a weather system that also came in, and we had lightning that was flashing all around, and it caused the aircraft to have to depart the area.
Tactical teams made a decision to secure that area, that smaller area, as best they could, and hold it through the storm, and until we could bring additional resources in and bring aircraft back overhead to ensure that we did not have an issue with an escape.
That resumed early this morning, and shortly after 8:00 A.M., tactical teams converged on the area where the heat source was.
They were able to move in very quietly. They had the element of surprise. Cavalcante did not realize 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 rifle with him as he went. One of the Customs and Border Control Team's, BORTAC, had a dog with them. They released the dog. Some of our PSP CERT members were also there, had him surrounded. The dogs subdued him, and team members from both of those teams immediately moved in.
He continued to resist, but was forcibly taken into custody. No one was injured as a result of that. Excuse me. He did sustain a minor bite wound. We had medical personnel at the scene, and they took a look at that.
Cavalcante was, as I said, taken into custody. He was transported to our Avondale Station for further processing and interview. And he will ultimately be transferred to a state correctional institute, where he will be housed and begin to serve his life sentence.
In just a few minutes, I'll open this up to some questions. But before I do that, I want to turn this over to one of our very close partners, District Attorney Deb Ryan. I know she would like to say a few words. And, again, then we'll be happy to take your questions following that.
DEB RYAN, CHESTER COUNTY DISTRICT ATTORNEY: Thank you, Lieutenant Colonel Bivens.
Today is a great day here in Chester County. Our nightmare is finally over, and the good guys won. We owe a debt of gratitude to all of the first responders for their tireless and dedicated efforts in bringing this fugitive to justice. They worked around the clock, and we are deeply grateful to all of them.
Our community can finally regain its normalcy and breathe a collective sigh of relief. This would not have happened without the collaboration and efforts on behalf of a multitude of agencies. I need to thank the governor, Colonel Paris, Lieutenant Colonel Bivens for his unflappable and dedicated leadership, the U.S. Marshals, the Chester County detectives, the FBI, U.S. Customs and Border Patrol, the Department of Emergency Services, the Sheriff's Department, and every single person who went out into the field in the most horrendous conditions.
We had weather problems, we had terrain problems, and a ton of obstacles that prevented our capture from occurring as expediently as we wanted. We have the best people in the business, and we never lost faith that this capture would occur. We knew that it was just a matter of time.
The scope of this manhunt was extremely impressive. The brave men and women who went out there every single day are our heroes. And I am proud to be a part of this collective team of people who worked around the clock to bring this man to justice during this monumental challenge.
They utilized every piece of advanced technology, dogs, drones, helicopters. Every asset available was put out for this capture.
I can't express our gratitude deep enough to all of them and to the community for their support. We received dozens and dozens of donations, well wishes and kind support from everyone in the community. And we thank this firehouse for housing us. We know we disrupted their lives for a while.
One of the first calls we made upon learning about this capture was to the Brandao family, who, as you can imagine, had been living in a complete nightmare. They are so grateful to the men and women who helped with this capture. They can now finally sleep again. I can't thank law enforcement enough for their efforts. Thank you.
BIVENS: Okay. With that, we would be happy to take your questions. Yes?
REPORTER: With the helicopter (INAUDIBLE), we saw the rest taking place. There was some criticism about the photo-op at the state with the fugitive. Can you explain how that's actually a standard procedure or what's the reasoning behind the photo-op with (INAUDIBLE)? BIVENS: You know, I'm aware that there was a photo-op that was taken out there. Those men and women worked amazingly hard through some very trying circumstances. They're proud of their work. I'm not bothered at all by the fact that they took a photograph with him in custody. Again, they're proud of their work. They kept the community safe. I say thanks to them and good job.
REPORTER: Did he say anything from the moment he was captured (INAUDIBLE) during his capture?
BIVENS: We will probably not be releasing the name. And in terms of anything that he said, we need to use an interpreter. And he has been taken back to the station. And at that point, we will attempt to interview him at the Avondale station.
REPORTER: Did he say anything upon capture (INAUDIBLE)?
BIVENS: I'm not aware of it if he did. I don't have that information.
REPORTER: Your officers were authorized to use the lethal force if he didn't actively surrender with the goal to always take him in alive?
BIVENS: That's always our first choice and preference. Again, that option is only to prevent the escape of a very dangerous individual. Had they not been able to contain him, that would have remained an option.
REPORTER: Who specifically made the arrest, which organization?
BIVENS: It was a combination. It was a combined group of the Border Patrol and PSP.
REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE) that captured him? When he went into the van, he was stripped at his tattoo's photograph. Is that normal procedure?
REPORTER: When the thermal imaging happened at 1:00, was he in the same location when you found him?
BIVENS: Wait, I'm sorry. You'd asked the first, ma'am.
REPORTER: Thank you. Was he asleep when they found him?
BIVENS: He was pruned out. I've not been told that he was asleep. I'm told that he was pruned out trying to hide and then began to crawl away.
REPORTER: Was it the same location when you got the thermal imaging at 1:00 when you found him at 8:00?
BIVENS: It was in that close proximity to that, yes.
REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE) was helping him? BIVENS: No one was assisting him at that point.
REPORTER: Sir, what was the agency that was flying the helicopter that first spotted the heat?
BIVENS: That was the DEA. And that was a fixed wing aircraft.
REPORTER: Were you worried as law enforcement that you had it down the plane and there could be another chance for escape? I mean, that's obviously the plane had to land, but what kind of risk did that? Did you have to calculate that?
BIVENS: Well, as I've told you throughout this investigation, there are always things we have to contend with. Everything isn't scripted and doesn't go perfectly. And so it's just another challenge, worried, I don't think, is the word that I would use. We simply had to adapt. And so we secured that inner perimeter while always keeping our outer perimeter secure. So, that if he did manage to get out of that inner, we would box him in yet again.
REPORTER: How tough an adversary was he? You've led some very high- profile, difficult manhunts. How tough an adversary was he compared to something else?
BIVENS: You know, I don't know that he was particularly skilled. He was desperate, and I've said that all along. You have an individual whose choice is go back to prison and spend the rest of your life in a place you don't want to be, or continue to try and evade capture. He chose the evade capture.
He was in good shape, obviously, able to climb as you saw to get out of prison. But, ultimately, as I said all along, we had an amazing team assembled here, capabilities that are just very formidable And I was confident all along that he would eventually be captured and, ultimately, this team, and I credit all of them for bringing together their collective experience, the resources, and being able to apply that and capture him. It's never easy to find someone who doesn't want to be found in a very large area.
REPORTER: Previously, you said you were reserving (ph) comment on anybody who was helping throughout the search. I know you said no one helped him this morning. You say now that he is in custody, whether he received help in the last 13 days?
BIVENS: There were people who were intent and intended to assist him. We had been successful, to the best of my knowledge. We had been successful in preventing that assistance from reaching him.
REPORTER: There had been some frustration and criticism from the public as this was stretching on. Now that it's over, do you consider this anything other than a success? BIVENS: No, it was absolutely a success. And I got to tell you, I think, by and large, the public stayed amazingly supportive. I had some third grade students stop by yesterday and drop off letters and notes of support for all of these responders. We put them out for them to see at briefing time and things. That's the kind of support we saw from this community.
There will always be criticism. There will always be people who think they can do this job better and they're entitled to that opinion. What I would tell you is, again, I put my faith in this group of experts, this group of seasoned law enforcement professionals, the dedicated men and women, not only of the Pennsylvania State Police, but of all of the other partner agencies who went out there every day. I'll put my money on them any day of the week and I believe the community supported them and continues to.
REPORTER: Will you charge with escape and when will those charges be filed?
BIVENS: We'll be discussing with the district attorney what if any charges will be filed. But for right now, again, there is commitment and he is going to begin serving his life sentence at a state correctional institution.
REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE) his sister now?
BIVENS: She is in the deportation proceedings.
That will proceed as had been initiated.
REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE) Cavalcante got the Eagles --
BIVENS: I'm sorry?
REPORTER: You know where Cavalcante got the Eagles hoodie from?
BIVENS: I do not.
REPORTER: Other than the rifle, what did he have with him? Do you have anything else?
BIVENS: Just the clothing and things that he was wearing.
REPORTER: Did he attempt to shoot? Did he attempt to try to sort of engage?
BIVENS: He did not have an opportunity to, no, sir.
REPORTER: How many officers were on the ground to search?
BIVENS: I don't have an exact number, but looking at the teams we were sending in there in the immediate vicinity was probably 20 to 25.
REPORTER: And can you tell us more about what those (INAUDIBLE)? BIVENS: Yes, they were a tactical team. You would expect camouflage, full armor, long rifles.
REPORTER: And which agencies?
BIVENS: Customs and Border Patrols, their BORTAC team out of El Paso, and then Pennsylvania State Police CERT. It's our special emergency response team.
REPORTER: Colonel, once on the ground from -- they've now pinpointed him, right? They're on the ground and they're quietly moving into place. Length of time?
BIVENS: From that point, probably five minutes had played out fairly quickly once they had identified him and moved in. He detected them at that point once they were already in position. And, again, he started to crawl away and it played out very quickly then.
REPORTER: Sir, what is your greatest lesson from this 14-day manhunt?
BIVENS: You know, I don't know that there's any single lesson. I will tell you that I learned something from all of these. And as I told you before, I bring that experience to the next one. And so I just go back to it's all about the team. It's about assembling the right group of people, the right technology, the people with can-do attitudes who will stick with you through the investigation.
And that's what we did. And it's worked well for us in the past. And I'm sure it will work well for us in the future.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Sir, you said there were people intending to help him. I just want to see if we can get a little more detail from you on that. You did mention you did confirm the sister was intending to help him. Who else might have been intending to help him and can you give us any detail on how?
BIVENS: The reason I'm not going to talk about that again, as I mentioned, we will be discussing with the district attorney whether there will be any additional charges. I don't expect that there will be on that aspect but we want to have that discussion before we disclose anything else.
BIVENS: No, I think he stopped because his normal pattern was to travel in the late evening, earlier overnight hours, whether he got tired or whatever normally he typically didn't travel then later at night and he typically did not travel during the day unless we pushed him.
And we did have several instances of that where he was pushed and had to move but you know he doesn't have night vision or anything like that, the type of technology that many of our operators had out there. And so traversing rugged terrain is difficult to do. I believe it was just easier for him to do in the late evening hours and late afternoon. REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE)?
BIVENS: I believe that's what caused it. It was a scalp wound and they bleed pretty significantly. I'm told there was not any significant injury.
REPORTER: He was able to get in a car and a gun, vehicle and a gun during this period. Is that surprising? Are you sort of astonished that someone (INAUDIBLE)?
BIVENS: No. I mean, all along you know we asked people to secure as best they could. Unfortunately, he was still able to acquire some of those things. Again, those are just some of the challenges we deal with in an investigation like this.
Our people rise to those challenges and, ultimately, again, he was successfully captured.
REPORTER: I know that you led the effort also in July earlier this year when that a person escaped using bed sheets. It was a chocolate lab that ultimately led to his arrest, and now here we are again. You're talking about a canine moving in and basically disabling Cavalcante. Can you just kind of talk about the -- having canines and their use of how much of an asset they are when you're trying to navigate tough terrain and track down dangerous people?
BIVENS: Sure. I mean in the case of Tucker, he was kind of a civilian. I would say we deputized, yes, and brought him in. He's now an honorary member of PSP. But -- lab. But he was not involved in this. That was in Warren that this gentleman was referring to.
BIVENS: You know, I believe there's a shepherd or a Belgian Malinois.
REPORTER: For those of us who aren't familiar --
BIVENS: Just one minute if I can come back to this gentleman. I apologize. In any event, canines play a very important role not only for tracking, but also for just like in a circumstance like this, safely capturing someone far better that we're able to release a patrol dog like this and have them subdue the individual than have to use lethal force.
And so, again, our preference is always to use other means. Canines play a very important role.
REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE) area. Can you give us a little bit more about where he was (INAUDIBLE) of a commercial building? Was he hiding within that building? Was he --
BIVENS: He was in the wooded area, again, west of PA 100. PA 100.
REPORTER: Are you aware of how he was getting nourishment and liquids?
BIVENS: No, that will all be part of the interview we'll attempt to do, whether he'll talk to us or not. That's obviously entirely up to him. But that will be something that we'll be asking.
REPORTER: Sir, at this juncture, will you release where he worked in Tulsa (ph) County prior to his 2021 arrest for homicide?
BIVENS: Unfortunately, I don't have the list of those locations. I know that he did a variety of jobs installing flooring, but I don't have the specific list of work locations.
REPORTER: How long will he be at the Avondale Barracks?
BIVENS: Long enough for us to process him, and however long an interview lasts with him. I don't expect it to be for a very extended period of time. And, again, at that point, he'll be transported to an SCI.
REPORTER: Was there any concern that he would team up with another small man to step inside the (INAUDIBLE) Little Rascal-style?
TODD: Can you give us more detail on the actual encounter with the dog? Did the dog tackle him, bite him? I mean --
BIVENS: Again, I didn't see this specific capture. What I would tell you is the way those dogs are trained is to simply go to the person. They will grab whatever is closest for them to grab, and then they are trained to detain that individual. They don't just keep biting and releasing or trying to cause additional injury. They simply grab on to and try and hold that person in place until officers can get there.
So, that's why they're never released at some great distance or unsupervised. There are officers close by who can then move in. The handler can immediately pull the dog back off of the -- give him a command, pull the dog back off, and then officers take over.
TODD: Did he fight the dog? Did he resist the dog?
BIVENS: He did.
TODD: He did?
BIVENS: I don't have the name.
BIVENS: Two questions. Was there any body cam footage or doggy cam footage in the situation of him getting of the rest, anything happening?
BIVENS: Not that I'm aware of.
REPORTER: And then, secondly, Border Patrol, are they here to speak? BIVENS: Yes.
REPORTER: Can we talk about the expertise of Border Patrol being here to make that arrest, what your experience played in how that made a -- if you could step up?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sure. Now, Border Patrol is trained in tracking and pursuing. From the time an agent comes on duty assigned to the southwest border, they get lots of experience tracking and trailing people. And then with our technology and other resources that just aids in the searches like this one.
REPORTER: Different terrain than normally what you're working with, correct?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So, Border Patrol is assigned to both the northern border and the southwest border. So, we got training and experience in all types of terrain.
TODDY: Tell us specifically what you did here. What did you do here to capture this man?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We assisted the state and -- federal, state and local partners with our resources, whether performing observation at night, search, searches during the day, searches during night. And then obviously we had our tactical teams here.
REPORTER: A question for Governor Shapiro. Governor, yesterday you described just how 24 hours a day right here that you were calm and that your commanders over this operation were also calm. In hindsight, how did you balance the obvious pressures from outside that were forever saying fine thing yesterday?
GOV. JOSH SHAPIRO (D-PA): We had a job to do, and that was to capture Cavalcante. And I had the absolute best team working on this. I'm proud to be associated with the Pennsylvania State Police and all the law enforcement leaders who were behind me, federal, state and local. We knew we had the best and we knew, as Colonel Bivens said multiple times, he was desperate and was just a matter of time. I couldn't be more proud of them.
And I want to come back to two questions over here that are related to Mr. Holden's (ph) question. One was about the assets that we deployed beyond the people. I hope that the public takes great pride in the technology and the canines and in all of the assets that were brought to bear here.
We ask a lot of the public through their tax dollars to support the police, to support law enforcement at every level.
And they got a front row seat here in Chester County and across Pennsylvania to see the extraordinary work not only these individuals do but the great technology we're able to bring the bear to ultimately capture dangerous suspects like this. The public should take great pride in that.
And then to the gentleman's question there in the suit, folks, who ever had their Eagles hoodie stolen, if you could let us know, I'll do my best to get you one of those new Kelly Green ones, okay?
REPORTER: Governor, can I just ask you, two escapes, two different individuals from the same prison in the same year. What do you say to people who live in this area? What is happening at the Chester County prison? And what are you guys going to do moving forward to try and prevent this kind of thing from ever happening again?
SHAPIRO: Here in Pennsylvania our system may be a little different from other states We have state correctional institutions and then we have county jails. In this case the Chester County Jail is run by Chester County officials. They'll answer those questions as to what occurred and what changes are ultimately going to be made.
Certainly, the State Department of Corrections will be here to assist in any reviews or in any other work that they need done to make sure that that facility is secured. They obviously have a lot of work to do there and I'm confident on the leadership of Chairwoman Moskowitz and District Attorney Ryan and other leaders in the county. They'll get that done.
REPORTER: Do you have a figure on the search? How much did this cost?
REPORTER: Is it estimated that the cost of the manhunt is about a million a day?
SHAPIRO: I can't you know put a price tag on it We'll do our best to make sure that whatever can be tallied up is and is shared with the public at the state level. I can't speak for our local or federal partners.
REPORTER: Colonel, you mentioned the pattern of what kind of dangers are there (ph). Were there any other patterns that you picked up on him where (INAUDIBLE) in tracking (INAUDIBLE)?
BIVENS: There were there were a number of things that we picked up on, and he didn't follow the same pattern every single time. He seemed to like to travel via creek beds. He liked other paths of less resistance, wood lines, power lines, gas lines, that type of thing. And that's actually fairly normal. Nobody wants to have to force their way through very heavy underbrush and things.
And, again, I mentioned the time of day, but all of that combined with some outstanding work and technology is really what brought this to a successful conclusion.
REPORTER: People in Chester County are grateful for your effort. I know you mentioned on Friday you were asked about containment and capture. Ultimately, that tactic was successful. Anyone that you would like to thank at this time? I know (INAUDIBLE) donated breakfast yesterday. Wawa has big help with lunch. Any small businesses you'd like to thank and then, again, the people of Chester County? BIVENS: I will tell you that we have been compiling a list. And I don't want to stand here right now because I will absolutely miss many. Some of those that you mentioned have been outstanding supporters of us and I thank them.
We will publish a list of all who helped us out because we are very, very appreciative. That level of support is really one of the things that allows our people to focus on the task at hand and to try and be successful even quicker than we might otherwise have to be.
When I gave you all a tour of the facility in here, I talked a lot about logistics and the support that is required to field a team of three, four, five or more hundred law enforcement officers out there, it takes a lot to put it out there.
And so the help of all of those folks, the help of the average person who stopped by and dropped off a case of water was very much appreciated, not only for the case of water but also just for the kind thoughts and words of support that they always included when they dropped that off.
REPORTER: And, ultimately, contain and capture, so the tactic was the way to go?
BIVENS: Yes. As I said, we always take a multifaceted approach. And so depending on the circumstances, there's always a contingency and we're always prepared to move in whatever direction we need to.
BIVENS: I'm sorry?
REPORTER: Were officers wearing any body cameras and --
BIVENS: I don't believe any officers on the tactical teams had them on.
REPORTER: Can you tell us what the aircraft involved here with the heat, the heat (INAUDIBLE)?
BIVENS: It was a DEA fixed wing aircraft. I believe that's South Covington. I would have to look at a map. We were operating in several townships there. But, again, it was north of Prizer and west of PA 100.
REPORTER: Sir, where were you when this all happened, and do you have a personal feeling of satisfaction for 14 days of very long, hard work? How does this feel for you this morning?
BIVENS: I was here in the command post when the capture occurred. And, yes, I'm very happy that this occurred.