12 more prison employees on leave after escape

Posted at 2:18 PM, Jun 30, 2015
and last updated 2015-06-30 14:23:09-04

There is more fallout from the escape of two inmates from the Clinton Correctional Facility. Three members of the executive team and nine members of the security staff have been placed on administrative leave, according to WKBW in Buffalo, New York.


In a statement, the state Department of Corrections announced all had been placed on leave as part of an ongoing review associated with the June 6 escape of inmates Richard Matt and David Sweat.

Security staff refers to uniformed positions, anything for a corrections officer to a lieutenant. And CNN reports that those suspended from the executive team include the prison's superintendent and deputy superintendent.

The department released no further details about the employees or why they were placed on leave.

A corrections officer who was originally placed on administrative leave as part of the investigation into the escape of two convicted killers is now facing charges. Gene Palmer, 57, is charged with promoting prison contraband, two counts of tampering with physical evidence and one count of official misconduct.

A woman who worked at the prison in the tailor shop, Joyce Mitchell, was charged with helping the two inmates escaped. Mitchell allegedly provided the pair with tools like hacksaw blades, chisels, a punch and a screwdriver bit that were secreted into the prison in frozen hamburger meat.

Mitchell is being held on charges of first degree promoting prison contraband, a class D felony, and fourth degree criminal facilitation, a class A misdemeanor.

David Sweat was shot twice while being captured Sunday, two days before Richard Matt was spotted by a U.S. Border Patrol tactical team, who opened fire and shot Matt three times in the head.

David Sweat is now listed in fair condition at Albany Medical Center. He was shot by a state trooper just a mile-and-a-half from the Canadian border. He is expected to be in the hospital for at least a few more days.

Sweat had been on the run for 23 days before being spotted walking Sunday afternoon on Coveytown Road in the Town of Constable. Sgt. Jay Cook, a 21-year veteran of the force, approached Sweat, who took off running, and as Sweat neared a tree line Cook opened fire, hitting Sweat twice in the torso.

Senator Charles Schumer, who was briefed on the situation, says Sweat was coughing up blood as he was taken to the hospital. Sweat was originally in critical condition but a spokesman for Albany Medical Center says Sweat is now in serious but stable condition and Sweat did not need to undergo surgery.

Governor Andrew Cuomo spoke Monday morning about the escape of Richard Matt and David Sweat. He told CNN on Monday morning that Sweat had a bag containing maps, tools, bug repellent and Pop Tarts when he was shot twice by Sgt. Cook.

Cuomo says Sweat and Matt split up five days ago. He says Matt had blisters on his feet and Sweat felt his older escape partner was slowing him down. Matt was shot and killed Friday in the Town of Malone after he was spotted in the woods by a U.S. Border Patrol tactical team.

An autopsy revealed Matt had been shot in the head three times. After he was shot and killed, 7 Eyewitness News spoke to Matt's half-brother, who said, "I mean, it might sound bad, but I was in a way hoping this was the outcome."

Cuomo said Sweat and Matt had originally planned to go to Mexico after they were picked up by prison worker Joyce Mitchell. Mitchell, who is facing charges, got cold feet because the governor says the pair planned to kill her husband. When Mitchell didn't show up, the pair instead headed towards Canada.

Matt and Sweat used power tools to cut through steel walls and escape from the maximum-security prison near the Canadian border in "a really elaborate, sophisticated operation" that involved shimmying through a steam pipe.

Police revealed Sunday evening that the prisoners used the tools provided by Mitchell to get out of their cells, then they managed to pick the lock of a contractor's tool box to gain access to additional tools to allow them to break out of the prison.

Richard Matt killed William Rickerson in December 1997 after abducting the 76-year-old food broker from his Niagara County home. Police said Matt had been fired from a warehouse owned by Rickerson a few weeks before the killing.

Parts of Rickerson's body were found in the Niagara River in early 1998. Police issued an arrest warrant for Matt soon afterward, but he had fled to Mexico.

While in Mexico, he killed a man outside a bar in Matamoros. He served nine years in prison before being returned to the U.S. in 2007. Matt was convicted of Rickerson's murder the following year and is serving 25 years to life for three counts of murder, three counts of kidnapping and two counts of robbery. He had been at the jail since July 2008.

David Sweat was one of three men arrested after 36-year-old Deputy Kevin Tarsia of the Broome County Sheriff's Office was fatally shot on the Fourth of July in 2002 in the town of Kirkwood, near the New York-Pennsylvania border outside Binghamton.

Police said the men had stolen rifles and handguns from a fireworks store just across the border in Pennsylvania by ramming a pickup truck into the building.

Tarsia later confronted the men in a park in Kirkwood, his hometown. Police said Sweat and another man fatally shot the deputy. Sweat and the accomplice pleaded guilty a year after the killing to first-degree murder and is serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole. He had been at the jail since October 2003.