‘Bite and hold’: How a K-9 caught escaped Pennsylvania inmate

(NewsNation/WHTM) — It was K-9 Yoda, a member of the U.S. Border Patrol Tactical Unit, that ultimately helped end a 14-day manhunt for convicted murderer Danelo Cavalcante, who was able to escape a Pennsylvania prison late last month.

Yoda, a 4-year-old Belgian Malinois, helped Pennsylvania State Police and other law enforcement agencies apprehend Cavalcante, without incident, on Wednesday.

“K-9s play a very important role not only for tracking but also for, in a circumstance like this, safely capturing someone,” said Lt. Col. George Bivens of the Pennsylvania State Police. “[It’s] far better that we’re able to release a patrol dog like this and have them subdue the individual than have to use lethal force.”

A police K-9 training expert believes the capture of Cavalcante was the perfect “marriage” between technology and police K-9s.

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Cavalcante was serving a life sentence for killing his ex-girlfriend, Deborah Brandao, in front of her children in 2021. He had been on the run for weeks before police and a K-9 surrounded him Wednesday in a wooded area.

“A Border Control Tactical Unit (BORTAC) that was moving in on the area had a search canine, which was released once Cavalcante showed signs of an attempt to flee,” according to the Chester County District Attorney’s Office. “The dog was able to subdue Cavalcante, and team members from the Border Tactical Unit and the Pennsylvania State Police immediately moved in to capture the fugitive.”

The DA’s office said Cavalcante sustained a “minor bite wound” from Yoda, but was evaluated by medical staff on the scene.

K-9 training expert Michael Gould told NewsNation Yoda did exactly what they were trained to do: Bite and hold.

“Because they’re taught to bite and hold, that means the injuries associated with that usually are not significant,” Gould said.

Calvacante was still armed with the rifle as he tried to escape by crawling through the underbrush and he continued to resist as he was taken into custody after 8 a.m. ET.

Despite days of advanced police technology and manpower, Gould said he’s not surprised that, once again, a K-9 ultimately brought down Cavalcante.

“Dogs are waterproof, they see at night — they have night vision, they are voice-activated,” said Gould. “These circumstances couldn’t have been more dangerous: You have an armed suspect, a murderer accused of heinous crimes, and rather than putting law enforcement at risk, the dog is capable of locating, holding and apprehending a suspect just by the how they’re trained.”

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As law enforcement was getting close to Cavalcante early Wednesday morning, heat-seeking aircraft were forced to depart the area as severe weather approached.

Gould said this is where K-9s can simply do what technology cannot.

“Rain, sleet, hail, snow… The dogs can be deployed,” said Gould. “Unlike, for example, the fixed-wing aircraft or other technology. So, the dogs are an amazing piece of technology from my biased perception.”

Cavalcante, a 34-year-old from Brazil, escaped from the Chester County prison on Aug. 31 by scaling a wall, climbing over razor wire and jumping from a roof. The breakout wasn’t detected by guards for a full hour, authorities say.

He had been spotted multiple times since his escape. Despite immense resources dedicated to the search, he managed to elude law enforcement for days.

After being taken into custody, Cavalcante was escorted to the Pennsylvania State Police Avondale Barracks for processing. He is currently being held at SCI Phoenix, a maximum-security prison in Montgomery County, according to the Department of Corrections. A felony charge of escape was filed against Cavalcante, who could also face more charges.

NewsNation writer Taylor Delandro contributed to this report.

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