Escaped Pennsylvania murderer shot at by homeowner while stealing rifle

Escaped convict Danelo Cavalcante spotted near Phoenixville

By Brendan O'Brien

(Reuters) - A convicted murderer who broke out of a Pennsylvania prison two weeks ago snatched a rifle from the garage of a homeowner, who then opened fire on him as he fled, authorities said on Tuesday, as police searched the nearby wooded hills for the fugitive.

Hundreds of state and local police along with federal agents have joined a manhunt for Danelo Cavalcante that began Aug. 31, when the 34-year-old Brazilian broke out of the Chester County Prison, about 30 miles (50 km) west of Philadelphia.

Overnight, Cavalcante entered a garage in Chester County, where he grabbed a 22-caliber rifle before he fled as the homeowner fired several shots at him with a pistol, said Pennsylvania State Police Lieutenant Colonel George Bivens during a Tuesday news briefing.

"We consider him desperate. We consider him dangerous," Bivens said. "He is desperate enough to use that weapon."

Authorities set up a 6-square-mile (16-square-km) perimeter around the home in a wooded, hilly area where they believe Cavalcante remains, Bivens said, noting that area schools have been closed for the day as a precaution.

State police urged residents to remain indoors and lock their doors and windows.

Cavalcante shed the sweatshirt he was seen wearing on security cameras and was now believed to be shirtless, Bivens said.

Cavalcante was waiting to be transferred to a state correctional institution to begin serving a life sentence after he was convicted in August for the brutal killing of a former girlfriend.

There have been multiple sightings of Cavalcante who has stolen a vehicle and has attempted to contact several people for help.

He later ditched the van and contacted his sister, who did not help him. She was taken into custody for an immigration violation, police said.

Cavalcante is also a suspect in a 2017 murder in Brazil, according to the U.S. Marshals Service.

Authorities have offered a $25,000 reward for information leading to his capture.

(Reporting by Brendan O'Brien in Chicago; Addditional reporting by Rich McKay in Atlanta; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)