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Autopsy: US prison escapee was drunk when killed in forest

August 5, 2015

ALBANY, New York (AP) — Toxicology tests show a convicted killer who escaped from prison and was on the loose for three weeks was drunk when he was fatally shot by border patrol agents who tracked him down in a forest, authorities said Wednesday.

The additional autopsy results indicated Richard Matt had a blood alcohol level of 0.18 percent, more than twice the level of intoxication for drunken driving under New York law, when he died from skull fractures and brain damage on June 27, state police said.

The prison escape by Matt and fellow inmate David Sweat launched a massive 23-day manhunt amid rugged terrain involving more than 1,100 law enforcement officers in far northern New York. Matt and Sweat escaped from the Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora after cutting through cell walls and a steam pipe. Matt was found about 30 miles (48 kilometers) west of the prison, and Sweat was shot and captured nearby two days later.

A U.S. border patrol sector chief, John Pfeifer, in describing Matt’s killing, said that a member of the patrol’s tactical team opened fire after Matt aimed a 20-gauge shotgun, which he had taken from a hunting camp, at the officer. Pfeifer also said that the tactical team found Matt lying down behind a fallen tree and that one of the escapees had stolen alcohol from a camp.

Someone with a blood alcohol content between 0.16 percent and 0.30 percent is considered severely impaired and is likely to suffer loss of balance and muscle control, vomiting, dangerously impaired judgment and decision-making and possible loss of consciousness, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

Sweat is now housed at the Special Housing Unit at Five Points Correctional Facility in central New York.

Police have said they now know most of the winding route the two escapees took while on the run though the heavily wooded area west of the prison, having identified a half-dozen hunting camps they broke into.

A former prison tailor shop worker, Joyce Mitchell, has pleaded guilty to charges of aiding the pair by smuggling hacksaw blades and other tools.

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Associated Press writer Mary Esch contributed to this report.

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This story has been corrected to show the inmate was on the loose for 3 weeks, not 2 weeks.

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