New York Governor Cuomo tours prison after inmates escape

Residents in the area around an upstate New York prison are on high alert after two prisoners escape, and the governor of the state, Andrew Cuomo, tours the jail after the breakout.

DANNEMORA, NEW YORK, UNITED STATES (JUNE 6, 2015) (NBC) – A manhunt was underway for two convicted murderers who pulled off an elaborate overnight escape from adjoining cells in a New York state maximum security prison near the border with Canada, police said on Saturday (June 6).

Prison guards discovered that the men were missing during an early morning bed check in the Clinton Correctional Facility, in Dannemora, about 40 miles (65 km) south of the Canadian province of Quebec. Both inmates are considered a danger to the public, state police said.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo described the escape, the first from the prison’s maximum security facility in its 150 year history, as “sophisticated.”

The two men were in adjoining cells and cut a hole through the back wall, crawling through the opening overnight, a prison official said.

They scaled a catwalk, then used power tools to drill through metal walls and a steam pipe, finally weaving through interior tunnels and coming out through a manhole cover on the street, Cuomo said.

Video released by Cuomo’s office showed him touring the jail with prison officials.

The men had left items in their beds, like clothing, to make it appear they were asleep, he said.

It was not yet known how they obtained power tools or figured out how to make their way through the tunnels to the street.

The breakout was reminiscent of the one depicted in “The Shawshank Redemption,” the 1994 movie based on a Stephen King story.

Cuomo, who was scheduled to attend Saturday’s Belmont Stakes to see American Pharoah’s bid for thoroughbred racing’s Triple Crown, canceled those plans and traveled to Dannemora.

Clinton Correctional Facility is known as “Little Siberia” for its remote location 320 miles north of New York City and the region’s cold climate.

About 200 law enforcement officers were searching the area around Dannemora using dogs and backed by police helicopters, authorities said. Police were asking people to be on the lookout and alert authorities if they saw the two men.

Residents who live in the neighborhood around the jail said they are very concerned about the safety of their families.

“I’ve been in the north country all of my life and for someone to get out of that prison is just insane. The whole community is just a little upside down right now,” said one area resident.

Another resident, who didn’t give his name but said he worked in the prison for over 25 years in a medical capacity, armed himself to protect his family.

“We’re on alert. We’re on high alert right now,” he said, adding “I watch cars go by. I’m always scanning, I’m always doing anything just to make sure these guys aren’t around here, so I can get on the phone and call the State Police or do what I have to do to protect my family and the area.”

The convicts were identified as Richard Matt, 48, serving 25 years to life for three counts of murder, kidnapping and robbery. He stands 6 feet tall, 210 pounds and had black hair and a tattoo reading “Mexico Forever”.

The other prisoner, David Sweat, 34, is serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole for the murder of a sheriff’s deputy. He is 5’11”, 165 pounds and has brown hair and tattoos on his left bicep and right fingers.