Prison escape prompts recollection of Bucky Phillips
For Chautauqua County Sheriff Joseph Gerace, there is a sense of deja vu in the North Country hunt for two Clinton Correctional Facility inmates who escaped nearly two weeks ago. The sheriff was deeply involved in the five-month hunt in 2006 for escaped prisoner Bucky Phillips.
The hunt for Bucky Phillips went on for months across Western New York and Pennsylvania and further before he was finally caught and put back behind bars. While on the run, he killed a State Trooper and wounded two others
Ironically, Phillips is currently in Upstate Correctional Facility in Malone, not far from Clinton Correctional. He was moved out of that prison for bad behavior behind bars.
Since Phillips spent a lot of his time in Chautauqua County during the hunt and the sheriff was deeply involved in the search.
"We went through this, although there were a lot of differences when Ralph Phillips was on the loose," Gerace said.
"One of the differences is that he was taunting law enforcement instead of fleeing the area and continuing to flee. He returned repeatedly. But some of the similarities are the terrain and the challenges of a huge area with two little people out there."
A State Police investigation afterwards found Trooper managers wouldn't cooperate with other police agencies to find Phillips which might have left him on the run longer and there was a house-cleaning. The same lack of cooperation is reportedly happening in the hunt for David Sweat and Tonawanda native Richard Matt.
The sheriff says he's not surprised the search has lasted nearly two weeks.
"Some people think, Well, why can't you grab them right away? It's just like a needle in a haystack. With all the technology, we can't see through the canopy of trees and leaves. Their challenges are bigger because they don't know if they are even in that area," Gerace said.