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Sheriff discuss Cattaraugus County’s involvement in Friendship manhunt

Cattaraugus County Sheriff Timothy Whitcomb addressed the Legislature last week regarding the county’s involvement and his perspective in the statewide manhunt for two escaped convicts from Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora.

“Two prisoners escaped from the Clinton County prison, way up north in our state,” said Whitcomb. Before last week there had been few good leads.

Then two weekends ago in Allegany County, a woman reported to police that she saw two people who fit the description of the men coming out of a sluice pipe in the Town of Friendship, about 300 miles from Clinton Correctional. It was the most promising lead police had at the time.

Whitcomb said he was asked to send units to Allegany County so they could handle calls. “We sent over a couple units, but stayed fully staffed here,” he said.

Cattaraugus County was also asked to send over tactical teams. It was thought that the escapees were using railroad tracks to travel across the state. The chief of police in Olean sent tactical teams to work with the sheriff’s teams, splitting personnel into two groups and clearing the tracks in a couple hours.

When a lead came in from 20 miles from the prison in the northern Adirondacks, law enforcement felt that it was “impossible that whatever the woman saw in Friendship” were the prisoners.

The convicts, Richard Matt and David Sweat, were on the run since June 6. Matt was shot and killed Friday. Sweat was wounded by a state trooper and taken into custody on Sunday; he was in serious condition in an Albany hospital Monday.