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Homeunited statesEscaped Brazilian murderer steals rifle, outwits huge US manhunt

Escaped Brazilian murderer steals rifle, outwits huge US manhunt

NEW YORK – Schools near Philadelphia were closed and residents told to lock their doors on Tuesday after an escaped Brazilian murderer dodged gunfire to steal a rifle from a home and was declared “extremely dangerous.”

Danelo Cavalcante, who made a daring escape from Chester County Prison nearly two weeks ago, has become the subject of fear and fascination for Americans as he continues to avoid police dogs, drones, helicopters and special armed units in the suburbs of Philadelphia.

Although police have failed to corner the convicted killer, the Brazilian national has popped up repeatedly on residential security footage and even nature cams set up to monitor wildlife, turning his criminal exploits into a grim reality TV show.

Since climbing over his prison wall on Aug 31, the 34-year-old has managed to steal new clothing, food, a van which he later abandoned, and managed to get a shave.

On Monday night, he raised the stakes by breaking into a home garage and taking a .22 caliber rifle with a scope and flashlight attached to the weapon, Pennsylvania police spokesman George Bivens told a press conference.

The homeowner confronted the fugitive and opened fire with a pistol but, according to preliminary information, appeared to have missed the fugitive, who got away.

Cavalcante, just 1.52m tall, is now “considered armed and extremely dangerous,” Bivens said.

In addition to flooding the search zone – a wide area west of Philadelphia – with messages warning residents, a decision was taken early Tuesday to close schools in the Oakland J. Robert school district.

“We’re not evacuating homes at this point. We’re asking residents to be vigilant and, again, lock their doors,” Mr Bivens said.

‘Needle in haystack’

The police spokesman said there were around 500 officers, including heavily armed tactical units, combing the area, but that they are hampered by the wooded terrain.

Defending himself against criticism that the police have been inept in the manhunt, Mr Bivens called Cavalcante the “proverbial needle in the haystack.”

Helicopters buzzed over an area that included Lundale Farm, and executive director Becki Patterson said police were “walking through our property, walking through the woods.”

She said the area has “trees, creeks and bridges and all kinds of corners (where) you could sneak around.”

“It’s been very stressful.”

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Cavalcante’s jailbreak came a week after he was sentenced to life for slaying his girlfriend by stabbing her dozens of times in front of her children in 2021. He is also wanted for murder in Brazil, US police say.

Police upped the reward for information on Cavalcante’s whereabouts, from US$20,000 to US$25,000 (S$34,000).

There have been several sightings of the convict so far, including some in which he was shirtless, while in others he is wearing a hoodie.

Police on Sunday said Cavalcante had changed his appearance, shaving off the dark beard and mustache seen on his original “wanted” poster.

Police also said that the escapee had abandoned a stolen 2020 White Ford Transit van, reportedly taken from a dairy in West Chester. He’d apparently run out of fuel.

Prison officials last week released a video showing how Cavalcante was able to escape.

It shows the convict, then wearing a white T-shirt and jeans, crab-walking up two parallel walls and then climbing to the roof before making his way over two razor-wire fences. AFP

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