NY Police Use Fugitive Excuse To Deploy Martial-Law Style Lockdown
New York state inmates David Sweat, 35, and Richard Matt, 48, were discovered missing from their Clinton Correctional Facility cells in Dannemora at 5:30 a.m. on June 6.
The prisoners cut their way through a steel wall and crawled through pipes to a manhole on the street outside the prison’s walls.
Now, 10 days into the search for the escaped killers, police and officials still have the area on lock down, expanding door to door sweeps of homes into Plattsburgh.
In Dannemora, police continue to comb through forests and check the trunks of cars. Officials have closed down the main highway through the area, Route 374, in order to divert motorists to the smaller roads with checkpoints.
Many residents say they were told to stay locked in their houses as the manhunt continued and that they could only leave with a state police escort.
Resident Thomas LaSalle called the countless armored police vehicles and helicopters invading his neighborhood “very unnerving,” saying, “I got the shakes. It [was] like a lock down.”
Pictures and video from the scene have shown police in full military gear, adorn with combat helmets, army camouflage, and assault rifles searching the property of homeowners before the FBI deployed armored vehicles and helicopters to the area equip with surveillance and thermal imaging technologies.
“It’s like a military state. Like a lockdown.” said Steve Lashway, who runs a meat market and deli in Dannemora. “Life has been insane. We have … officers on every corner with shotguns, and there are roadblocks up everywhere.”
The day after the breakout was discovered, law enforcement officers searched all school district buildings in Dannemora – including every school bus, and the woods and swamps surrounding the middle and high school.
A state trooper presence was then placed at every school, recess periods were held indoors, and classes were even canceled.
“People are eager to get back to the daily routine and the things that they do around here,” superintendent of the Saranac Central School District, Jonathan Parks said. “People live around here for a reason. It’s quiet. It’s serene. Your daily routine doesn’t really involve a whole lot of thought about danger. That’s why we’re here.”
The military-style lockdown is the latest in a series of disproportionate police responses over the last several years. The city of Boston saw a similar, but more aggressive lock-down following the Boston marathon bombing in April 2013.
During the protests in Ferguson, Missouri in August 2014, police and National Guard locked down whole areas of the city, enforced a curfew, and made arrests with impunity.
At the end of April, during protests against the killing of Freddie Gray, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan suspended the state’s habeas corpus law via executive order, and deployed the National Guard before retreating and releasing 100s of prisoners that had been detained illegally for over two days without charges.
More than 800 officials are now involved in the New York manhunt, including members of the FBI and U.S. Marshals.
For a time, the search had reached into Vermont, but the LA Times reports that police no longer believe the inmates have escaped New York.