WEST CHESTER, Pa. (AP) — A prison tower guard has been fired after a killer sneaked away while watching him in a daring daytime escape, officials said Friday, as a nine-day search amid southeast Philadelphia suburbs and farmland continued. And a spacious vegetable garden.
News of the shooting came as search numbers increased overnight, focusing on the area around Longwood Gardens, where the escaped inmate had previously been spotted.
Danilo Souza Cavalcanti, 34, escaped while awaiting transport to state prison on Aug. 31 after being sentenced to life in prison for the stabbing death of his ex-girlfriend in 2021. Prosecutors say he wanted to prevent her from telling police he was wanted for murder. In his native Brazil.
Authorities described Cavalcanti as extremely dangerous. As the search enters its second week, nervous residents remain on alert for any sign of it. Police believe Cavalcanti has been spotted nine times since his escape, most recently on Thursday night, and he was able to obtain clothing and other supplies.
A Chester County guard was fired Thursday after 18 years as a corrections officer, county spokeswoman Michelle Burke said. He was on duty at the observation tower when Cavalcanti scaled a wall by crab-walking from the amusement park, climbed over barbed wire, ran across the roof and jumped to the ground.
Cavalcanti’s escape was not discovered for more than an hour until guards counted the number of people. The guard, who was placed on administrative leave after the escape, had his personal cellphone with him at the time, a violation of prison protocol, Bjork said.
The spokeswoman said she did not know the specific reason for the shooting and could not provide further details about what the guard was doing when Cavalcanti fled.
County officials said a watchtower guard should have seen Cavalcanti trying to escape, but apparently did not, and they did not explain why they did not see him or stop him, including whether he was using his cell phone and was distracted.
Cavalcanti eluded hundreds of law enforcement personnel, including tracking dogs, tactical teams in full combat gear, and police on horseback and helicopters in southwest Philadelphia.
On Friday, the ranks of searchers swelled to their largest number yet at about 400, Pennsylvania State Police Lt. Colonel George Bivins told reporters at a command center.
Longwood Gardens has been closed indefinitely after reports that Cavalcante may have been spotted again on the property. People who remained there throughout Thursday night were told to shelter in place while officers searched part of the park.
The botanical garden, which covers 200 acres (80 hectares), is usually open to the public with paths winding through the gardens, an outdoor amphitheater, ponds, fountains and lawns, as well as structures including indoor gardens, treehouses and a restaurant.
State police said there was a possible sighting of Cavalcanti Thursday evening and it is being investigated, but no further details have been released. This came hours after another person reported seeing Cavalcanti in another area of the vast botanical garden. On Monday night, a surveillance camera on one of the trails captured him walking through its territory.
There is now a $20,000 reward for anyone who provides information leading to his arrest.
The escape and search attracted international attention and became big news in Brazil. Rio de Janeiro’s main newspaper published a lengthy story on Wednesday under the headline “Dangerous Hide and Seek.”