Residents of a suburban Philadelphia community locked themselves in their houses and at least one school district canceled classes as authorities indicated they were closing in on an escaped murderer who has evaded capture in the region for nearly two weeks.
Danelo Souza Cavalcante entered a garage late Monday in the search area northwest of Philadelphia, stole a rifle, and fled when the homeowner drew a pistol and shot at him, Pennsylvania State Police Lt. Col. George Bivens said in a news conference Tuesday morning.
State Police posted on social media that the department was pursuing Cavalcante in South Coventry Township, about 20 miles (32 kilometers) north of the Chester County jail, from which he escaped Aug. 31. Police warned that Cavalcante was armed and not to approach him, and asked the public to call 911 if they see him.
About 500 officers are searching or guarding an 8- to 10-square mile area roughly 30 miles northwest (50 kilometers) of Philadelphia, Bivens said.
At about 10:10 p.m., Cavalcante entered the garage and fled after the homeowner fired at him, Bivens said. More officers are being called in to secure the search area, with police closing roads and setting up checkpoints to search vehicles, Bivens said. He noted that Cavalcante also has ammunition that was with the firearm.
Bivens said he has no reason to believe Cavalcante was injured.
“We will actively hunt until we find him,” Bivens said.
After another sighting, Bivens said police found footprints and shoes identical to those Cavalcante wore. And a pair of work boots was stolen from a porch nearby.
At least one school district said Tuesday it would close all schools and offices for the day, and another in the area planned to keep students indoors. Police closed roads in the search area. Video from a roadblock showed law enforcement officers stopping and checking vehicles leaving the area.
State and federal officials had pushed back Monday against questions about whether they blew a chance to catch Cavalcante, saying the area where hundreds had been searching included deep woods, underground tunnels and drainage ditches. They also said it took more than two hours for news to reach them that he had been spotted outside the perimeter for the first time.
Cavalcante slipped out of an earlier 8-square-mile (13-square-kilometer) search area over the weekend and stole a dairy delivery van that had been left unlocked with the keys in it. He abandoned it more than 20 miles (32 kilometers) north of the search area after unsuccessfully seeking help at the homes of two former colleagues late Saturday, police said.
Bivens declined to say how he thinks Cavalcante slipped through the perimeter, but he said no perimeter is completely secure.
Cavalcante is desperate because he is reaching out for help from people with whom he hasn’t spoken in years, he said.
“The fact that he has reached out to people with a very distant past connection tells me he doesn’t have a great network of support,” Bivens said. “So I think he’s desperate and I’ve characterized him as that all along. And I think the longer we push him, the more resources, the more tools we bring to bear, we will ultimately capture him. He doesn’t have what he needs to last long-term.”
Bivens has said state police are authorized to use deadly force if Cavalcante doesn’t actively surrender and noted other agencies involved in the search may have their own rules.
Bivens declined to discuss whether Cavalcante has received assistance from others but said no such arrests have been made.
Cavalcante’s sister was arrested by immigration authorities, Bivens said. He said she was arrested for staying past her legally allowed period of stay and law enforcement had no reason to allow her to remain in the United States since she was not cooperating with the investigation.
Cavalcante, 34, broke out of the Chester County Prison — Pennsylvania calls its local jails prisons — while awaiting transfer to a state prison to serve a life sentence for fatally stabbing an ex-girlfriend in 2021. Prosecutors say he killed her to stop her from telling police that he was wanted in a slaying in his home country of Brazil.
To escape, Cavalcante scaled a wall by crab-walking up from the recreation yard, climbed over razor wire, ran across a roof and jumped to the ground. His escape went undetected for more than an hour until guards took a head count. The tower guard on duty was fired, officials said.
In Brazil, prosecutors in Tocantins state said Cavalcante is accused of “double qualified homicide” in the 2017 slaying of Válter Júnior Moreira dos Reis in the municipality of Figueiropolis, over a debt the victim owed him for repairing a vehicle.
U.S. authorities described Cavalcante as extremely dangerous. A $25,000 reward is being offered for information leading to his capture.
Brumfield reported from Silver Spring, Md. Contributing to this report were Associated Press writers Claudia Lauer in Philadelphia and Eléonore Hughes in Rio de Janeiro.