FRIENDSHIP, N.Y. (WIVB) – The Town of Friendship in Allegany county is slowing getting back to normal after an intense search for fugitives David Sweat and Richard Matt led hundreds of law enforcement officers to the town last month.
“I think it’s mostly forgotten about,” said Norm Ungermann, who lives just a town away.
The manhunt began after a tip from Friendship’s Brandy Thompson. Thompson thought she’d spotted the men on some train tracks near her home. “I seen their mug shots on TV, it looked similar expect for more scruffy, more dirty,” she told News 4 during the search.
From there, the feeling in town immediately changed. “Started locking our doors the minute we heard about it, sure did,” said Friendship resident Barbara Baker.
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Following Thompson’s 911 call, initial search efforts were concentrated on train tracks near Maple Grove Road in Friendship; but from that hot spot, state and local law enforcement honed in all over the town both from the ground and from the air.
State Police armed with rifles searched every vehicle passing through town on Interstate 86; but they weren’t the only ones armed. Ungermann said he too had his gun loaded and ready to do that weekend in late June. So did Doug Comstock, who lives just a few miles outside Friendship.
“They need to catch these guys.These guys are bad,” he said during the 48-hour manhunt in town.
News 4 visited Comstock after the search was over. “I was really relieved. They were dangerous guys, for everybody. Nobody got hurt from them you know, they didn’t get a chance to hurt anything, because we’ve got the best troopers! New York State has got the best state troopers going,” Comstock cheered.
Many people living in Friendship still asking themselves if the men ever really there. State police say while the chance of it is slim, they’re not discounting Thompson’s tip.
“I don’t think they were ever here. But everybody was so on edge, you know, that it was reported seeing somebody,” said Comstock.
“It kind of surprised me that they’d even think that they were down here,” Ungermann told News 4.
“I wasn’t sure, but then when the lady had the sighting, or thought she saw the men, it’s like ‘Hh my gosh, they could be anywhere around here,'” Baker said.
Twenty-two days later and after $22 million was spent to find the two convicted murderers who escaped from Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora, those living in Friendship are still in awe of the whole thing; but like Comstock, grateful for the state troopers who brought the search to an end, more than 300 miles away.
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