Escaped Pennsylvania prisoner now armed with a stolen rifle and ‘extremely dangerous,’ police say

Sep 12, 2023, 11:31 AM | Updated: 11:31 am

Law enforcement officers search for Danelo Cavalcante in Glenmoore on September 11.
Mandatory Credi...

Law enforcement officers search for Danelo Cavalcante in Glenmoore on September 11. Mandatory Credit: Matt Rourke/AP

(CNN) — The convicted killer who escaped from an eastern Pennsylvania prison nearly two weeks ago is considered “armed and extremely dangerous” after he stole a rifle from the garage of a local homeowner, who fired several shots at the fugitive as he fled, police said Tuesday.

Danelo Cavalcante, 34, was spotted on Monday night in Chester County’s South Coventry Township, about 20 miles north of the prison, according to an emergency alert.

Live updates: The latest on the manhunt

At about 10:10 p.m., police received a call from a resident who said a shirtless male entered his garage and grabbed a rifle in the corner, Pennsylvania State Police Lt. Col. George Bivens said in a news conference. The homeowner fired his pistol at Cavalcante as he fled, but there is “no reason to believe” the fugitive was injured, Bivens said.

A green sweatshirt and white tee shirt were found near the homeowner’s driveway, he said.

“I think he is just trying to survive and avoid being captured right now,” he said.

Bivens later told CNN the fugitive ran into the garage while the homeowner was sitting right there. He said the gun had not been left unsecured so he did not believe the homeowner was being irresponsible.

The shooting and gun theft represent a stark escalation in the dangerous manhunt after Cavalcante escaped the county jail on August 31.

About 500 law enforcement officers – including the Pennsylvania State Police, FBI, ATF, and the US Marshals – are searching the area around the shooting, and police have set up a perimeter stretching several miles in each direction. Video from WPVI shows a massive police response in the South Coventry Township overnight, with dozens of patrol cars and an armored vehicle converging on the scene.

“It’s a large area, wooded, hilly terrain. It’s not something that it’s a matter of sending a few people in and searching,” Bivens said.

The .22-caliber rifle Cavalcante has in his possession has a scope and flashlight, Bivens said.

“We consider him desperate, we consider him dangerous,” he said. “I would suspect that he’s desperate enough to use that weapon.”

Police sent several reverse 911 calls to people within three miles warning them of the danger. An emergency alert sent Monday night to area residents asked them “to lock all external doors and windows, secure vehicles, and remain indoors.”

The Owen J. Roberts School District in Chester County announced it would be closed Tuesday, and several other school districts announced all classes would be indoors.

Finally, Bivens defended law enforcement’s actions during the extensive search, saying they were trying to find a needle in a haystack.

“Nothing has gone wrong,” he said.

Local resident heard gunshots from home

The shooting on Monday night came several hours after Cavalcante was sighted in the area.

At about 8 p.m., a driver noticed a man crouched near the wood-line of a road just west of Route 100, Bivens said. Law enforcement went to that location and found footprints in the mud that were identical to Cavalcante’s prison shoes, and they tracked the prints and eventually found the shoes, he said.

A resident in the area also reported that a pair of work boots had been stolen from her porch, Bivens said.

Jason Mesiarik, an East Nantmeal resident, told CNN he heard the gunshots that were fired during the encounter between his neighbor and the fugitive.

“I had just finished feeding our horses when I heard the gunshots a minute or two after ten and called it in,” Mesiarik said. “I heard about seven low-caliber shots in quick succession.”

Mesiarik, who owns a farm on Coventryville Road, said he called police to report the gunshots. Mesiarik also told CNN that even though it’s common to hear gunshots in the area, which is mostly farmland, the type of gunshots he heard Monday evening were out of the ordinary.

“You never hear gunshots at night and usually I’m hearing a lot larger calibers, shotguns, targets, but this one sounded like a .22.”

Around 2 a.m. Tuesday, police also knocked on Mesiarik’s door to search for Cavalcante, he said.

“Pennsylvania State Police showed up in full tactical gear. They knocked on the doors and cleared the barns,” Mesiarik said. “It was important to us that they made sure everything was clear and with that we were able to get some sleep.”

Nearly two weeks on the run

Cavalcante was being held at Chester County Prison, in a rural area some 30 miles west of Philadelphia, following his conviction last month of first-degree murder for the killing of his former girlfriend, 33-year-old Deborah Brandão.

According to prosecutors, he stabbed her 38 times in front of her two young children in Pennsylvania in April 2021. He was arrested several hours later in Virginia, and authorities said he was attempting to flee to Mexico and intended to later head to Brazil, his native country.

In addition, Cavalcante is wanted in a 2017 homicide case in Brazil, a US Marshals Service official has said.

He escaped from custody by putting his hands on a wall and his feet on another and “crab-walking” up to the roof, authorities said. He then pushed his way through razor wire, ran across a roof, scaled another fence, and got through more razor wire before escaping the compound, officials said.

Since then, he has been spotted a number of times in the Chester County area, including multiple times at a botanical garden. Police surrounded an area of several square miles that they termed a search perimeter to try to catch him.

Yet on Saturday, he shaved his beard, stole a van and showed up at the homes of people he knew years ago more than 20 miles outside the search perimeter.

On Saturday evening, Cavalcante appeared at the East Pikeland Township home of an acquaintance he’d known several years ago, Bivens said in a Sunday news conference. He spoke with the acquaintance on a Ring doorbell camera, which captured his new clean-shaven look. The person wasn’t home and did not respond to meet Cavalcante, Bivens said.

Cavalcante then tried to contact another acquaintance in the nearby Phoenixville area. That person was also not home but called police after a female resident saw the escaped inmate, according to Bivens.

“He needs additional help. He needs resources for the long run, and he is seeking those,” Bivens said in a news conference Monday afternoon.

Cavalcante ditched the stolen van in a field in East Nantmeal Township and vanished, authorities said. The vehicle was found Sunday.

While Cavalcante has so far managed to evade the hundreds of officers looking for him, police have said they don’t believe he’ll be able to cross state lines.

“I don’t believe he has the resources to get out of Pennsylvania,” Bivens said.

How Cavalcante has managed to stay on the run so long

Despite several sightings since his escape, police have described the search as unusually challenging and as “tactical hide and seek.”

“We conduct fugitive investigations every day of the year across this commonwealth … most don’t lead to a protracted search like this,” Bivens said Monday.

Most escaped prisoners are captured within 24 hours, and most of them within two miles, CNN’s chief law enforcement and intelligence analyst John Miller said.

In this case, though, Cavalcante has managed to evade capture in a large, densely wooded area with many places to hide.

“No perimeter is 100% secure. It’s not a wall, it doesn’t have a ceiling, it doesn’t have all of the things that you might normally use if you’re trying to contain someone,” Bivens said.

The early stages of the search in the woods played out to Cavalcante’s advantage, US Marshals Service Supervising Deputy Robert Clark said Monday.

“He was in an 8-square-mile area with very difficult train that was very difficult to get to,” Clark said.

The-CNN-Wire™ & © 2023 Cable News Network, Inc., a Warner Bros. Discovery Company. All rights reserved.

KSL 5 TV Live

National News

Law enforcement officers gather at the campaign rally site for Republican presidential candidate fo...

Pamela Brown and Shoshana Dubnow, CNN

Local officer tried to stop gunman on rooftop, but was unable to engage him, Butler County sheriff says

A local police officer saw the gunman on the rooftop during former President Donald Trump’s Pennsylvania rally on Saturday but was unable to engage him, Butler County Sheriff Michael T. Slupe told CNN’s Pamela Brown on Sunday.

2 minutes ago

U.S. Secret Service agents converge to cover Republican presidential candidate former President Don...

Julie Carr Smyth, Jill Colvin, Colleen Long, Michael Balsmo, Eric Tucker and Michelle L. Price, The Associated Press

FBI says it has not determined a motive for assassination attempt on former President Donald Trump

BUTLER, Pa. (AP) — On the heels of an attempt to kill him, former President Donald Trump called Sunday for unity and resilience as shocked leaders across the political divide recoiled from the shooting that left him wounded but “fine.” A former fire chief attending the rally with family was killed, as was the gunman. Two other […]

56 minutes ago

Police snipers return fire after shots were fired while Republican presidential candidate former Pr...

Whitney Wild, Evan Perez and Tierney Sneed, CNN

Secret Service faces serious questions about security footprint and rooftop access at Trump event

In the wake of the attempted assassination of Donald Trump, there are growing questions about how a sniper was able to obtain rooftop access roughly 150 yards from the former president’s position at the podium at an outdoor rally.

3 hours ago

Boyd Matheson follows the latest details after an attempted assassination was made on former Presid...


Sunday Edition: The attempted assassination of former President Donald Trump

Boyd Matheson sits down for a special episode of Sunday Edition following the attempted assassination of former President Donald Trump.

4 hours ago

Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump is surround by U.S. Secret Service ...

Jill Colvin, The Associated Press

Amid chaos and gunfire, Trump raised his fist and projected a characteristic image of defiance

Donald Trump, his face smeared with blood, forced his right fist through a tangle of agents' arms. He raised it high into the air before pumping his fist. "Fight!" he mouthed to the crowd and cameras as he pumped his arm sharply three times.

4 hours ago

Security personnel inspect the scene in Butler, Pennsylvania, on July 13. (Brendan McDermid/Reuters...

Zoe Sottile, CNN

Man killed in Trump assassination attempt identified as firefighter Corey Comperatore

Firefighter Corey Comperatore was killed during the attempted assassination of former President Donald Trump, Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro said Sunday.

5 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

young male technician is repairing a printer at office...

Les Olson

Unraveling the dilemma between leasing and buying office technology

Carefully weigh these pros and cons to make an informed decision that best suits your business growth and day-to-day operation. 

A kitchen in a modern farmhouse....

Lighting Design

A room-by-room lighting guide for your home

Bookmark this room-by-room lighting guide whenever you decide to upgrade your lighting or style a new home.

Photo courtesy of Artists of Ballet West...

Ballet West

The rising demand for ballet tickets: why they’re harder to get

Ballet West’s box office is experiencing demand they’ve never seen before, leaving many interested patrons unable to secure tickets they want.

Electrician repairing ceiling fan with lamps indoors...

Lighting Design

Stay cool this summer with ceiling fans

When used correctly, ceiling fans help circulate cool and warm air. They can also help you save on utilities.

Side view at diverse group of children sitting in row at school classroom and using laptops...

PC Laptops

5 internet safety tips for kids

Read these tips about internet safety for kids so that your children can use this tool for learning and discovery in positive ways.

Women hold card for scanning key card to access Photocopier Security system concept...

Les Olson

Why printer security should be top of mind for your business

Connected printers have vulnerable endpoints that are an easy target for cyber thieves. Protect your business with these tips.

Escaped Pennsylvania prisoner now armed with a stolen rifle and ‘extremely dangerous,’ police say