AMHERST, N.Y. (WIVB) — State and local police SWAT teams Thursday night gathered outside an Amherst home after a tip that two escaped murderers may be in western New York.
Just before 8 p.m. the SWAT team surrounded the home on Grover Cleveland Highway near Bailey Avenue. Officials say they were following a lead in the search for Richard Matt and David Sweat. Although the tip turned out to be inaccurate, police say it wasn’t a concerned citizen who thought they sighted one of the two murderers.
“We looked out the window and there’s two gentlemen in military garb right across the street, kind of sneaking around,” said witness Paul Crawford, who was visiting from Pendleton. “We got up to see what was happening and sure enough there was a blockade on both ends with cops all over the place and state troopers in full regalia.”
Authorities blocked off both ends of Grover Cleveland Highway and had the road shut down for about a half hour. No one was found, which is good news for western New Yorkers who have been following the escape closely.
“We had to stay in the house, they were flagging us to stay away from the windows,” Crawford said. “There were three troopers in full gear behind us here, you know, bulletproof vests and helmets and everything else. And they saw us looking out the window, and they flagged us to go back inside the house, basically for our own protection.”
New York State Police say they acted on a lead and brought in Amherst police to help investigate it thoroughly. Officials say they can’t comment on other leads until they have followed up on them throughout the area.
Neighbors told News 4 authorities have been to the home before. In fact, the first time was June 8, the Monday after Matt and Sweat turned up missing from the Clinton Correctional Facility.
Neighbors also say they are living in fear, one telling News 4, “Everybody is laying low. No one wants to appear on camera because you don’t know what you’re dealing with.”
Crawford said he was surprised. “I just thought, you never know this is a great neighborhood, this is a nice neighborhood and everything, what’s going down unfortunately things happen,” he said.
Police have been searching for 13 days for Richard Matt and David Sweat, who escaped from the Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora using power tools to tunnel from their cells. The manhunt has seen a massive effort which has sifted through more than 1,500 leads and consumed the lives of more than 800 officers for nearly two weeks.
The criminals reportedly got the power tools from a prison employee, who has since been arrested and charged for helping the two escape.
News 4 will continue to update this story as information becomes available.