Pennsylvania State Police announced Danelo Souza Cavalcante’s capture on social media on Wednesday, as the search entered its 14th day.
“Shortly after 8 a.m., our suspect was captured,” Gov. Josh Shapiro, backed by officers from the state, county and federal governments, said at a news conference. “Thank God there were no injuries to law enforcement or the public.” He said no shots were fired during the capture.
Around 1 a.m., Calvacante’s heat signal was picked up from an aircraft, but storms prevented teams from continuing to track him until the morning, Pennsylvania State Police Lt. Col. George Bivens said at the news conference. In the meantime, tactical teams secured the area and later moved in with search dogs.
“They were able to move in very quietly. They had the element of surprise. Cavalcante did not realize he was surrounded until that had occurred,” Bivens said.
Bivens said Calvacante was still armed with the rifle as he tried to escape by crawling through the underbrush and he continued to resist as he was taken into custody after 8 a.m. ET. He added that Calvacante was bitten by a police dog and suffered a minor wound.
Aerial footage from WPVI-TV showed an armored vehicle with Cavalcante arriving at the Pennsylvania State Police barracks at Avondale. A handful of officers pulled from the back of the vehicle and led him into the building.
Cavalcante, a 34-year-old from Brazil, escaped from the Chester County prison on Aug. 31 by scaling a wall, climbing over razor wire and jumping from a roof. The breakout wasn’t detected by guards for a full hour, authorities say.
He had been spotted multiple times since his escape. Despite immense resources dedicated to the search, he managed to elude law enforcement for days.
The end to the search for Cavalcante unfolded just beyond Philadelphia’s heavily populated suburbs, in an area of woods, rolling farmland and a county park. The search led to warnings for homeowners to lock their doors and blocked roads over the Labor Day weekend.
Overnight into Wednesday, heavily armed law enforcement officers searched for the fugitive through a night of downpours and thunder.
Authorities said over the weekend that Cavalcante had slipped out of the initial search area, shaved and changed his clothing, stole a vehicle to travel miles to seek aid from former co-workers in the northern part of the county and then abandoned the vehicle, at least in part because it was low on fuel.
Then, late Monday, a motorist alerted police to a man matching Cavalcante’s description crouching in the darkness along a line of trees near a road in northern Chester County. Police found footprints and tracked them to the prison shoes identical to those Cavalcante had been wearing. A pair of work boots was reported stolen from a porch nearby.
State police said they believed he was looking for a place to hide when he saw an open garage. There, he stole a .22-caliber rifle and ammunition, and fled when the homeowner who was in the garage drew a pistol and shot at him several times, state police said.
That led hundreds of law enforcement personnel to search an area of about 8 to 10 square miles near South Coventry Township, roughly 30 miles northwest of Philadelphia.
People tried to help Cavalcante during his time on the run, Bivens said Wednesday, but authorities thwarted those attempts. He did not elaborate or say anyone had been charged criminally.
“I think that by and large that was not necessarily a factor in his ability to continue to move. But we’re looking at all the information we have,” Bivens said in an exclusive one-on-one interview with NewsNation Wednesday. “Certainly whatever we glean now that he’s in custody will factor into whether there are any eventual criminal charges that come out of this.”
Cavalcante received a life sentence last month for killing his ex-girlfriend, Deborah Brandao, in front of her children in 2021.
He escaped while awaiting transfer to state prison. Prosecutors say he killed her to prevent her from telling police that he’s wanted in a 2017 killing back in Brazil.
He had been captured in Virginia after his ex-girlfriend’s murder, and authorities believe he was trying to return to Brazil.
Prison officials have acknowledged the need for enhanced security measures following the initial escape attempt, stating their intention to fully enclose the outdoor recreation areas. The prison tower guard on duty when Cavalcante escaped was fired.
The manhunt also impacted some local schools. One suburban Philadelphia school district which had shuttered this week said it planned to open five schools Thursday that are located outside the search perimeter. Another neighboring district said it reopened three schools late Wednesday and they would be open for classes on Thursday.
“The capture of Cavalcante ends the nightmare of the past two weeks, and we thank every single law enforcement official at the regional, state and federal level that was out in all weather conditions, all day and night – as well as everyone in the incident command center, our County Department of Emergency Services and County Sheriff’s Office – for their immense efforts,” Chester County Commissioners Marian Moskowitz, Josh Maxwell and Michelle Kichline said in a statement.