After nearly two weeks following his brazen escape from Chester County Prison in Pennsylvania, convicted murderer Danilo Cavalcante was apprehended by law enforcement officials, with a significant assist from a police dog named Yoda.
Cavalcante, 34, had been convicted of the 2021 brutal murder of his former girlfriend, Deborah Brandão, and was also wanted for a 2017 homicide case in Brazil.
His brazen escape, caught on prison surveillance camera, showed the convict climbing up a wall and disappearing. He then slipped passed barbed wire.
His escape sparked a massive manhunt that drew hundreds of law enforcement officials to the area.
The decisive moment occurred two weeks later on September 13 around midnight when authorities spotted the fugitive hiding in the underbrush in a wooded area of Pennsylvania.
A tactical team, including Yoda, a 4-year-old Belgian Malinois, moved in on Cavalcante at around 8 a.m. without firing any shots during the arrest.
According to police, Yoda played a pivotal role in preventing Cavalcante from using a stolen rifle he had within arm’s reach.
“When the dog got to him, he then went flat with the dog on him — the dog was able to detain him there,” Lieutenant Colonel George Bivens said. “I was told the rifle was within arm’s length.”
Supervisory deputy U.S. Marshal Robert Clark Police also spoke on Yoda’s value to the team during the manhunt.
“He was just essential as far as the tracking and searching, as were numerous other K-9s that were here. All these K-9 resources were utilized from different tactical teams from the area, and they were just incredible resources,” Clark said.
Yoda, a “bite and hold” police dog, bit Cavalcante twice — once on the scalp and again in the lower extremities — effectively subduing him.
This action allowed officers to take Cavalcante into custody without resorting to lethal force.
According to police, canines like Yoda are trained to provide a few critical extra seconds for officers to safely apprehend suspects without causing additional harm.
They are not meant to inflict continuous injury but rather to immobilize individuals until officers can take control of the situation.
“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,” Bivens said.
“They simply grab onto and try and hold that person in place until officers can get there.”
Yoda belongs to a K-9 unit with the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, which assisted federal and local agencies in the search.
The manhunt for Cavalcante had spanned a large swath of rural county, with the fugitive managing to evade capture by breaking through police perimeters despite several sightings.
During his time on the run, he stole a vehicle, changed his appearance and acquired essentials, including the stolen rifle equipped with a scope and flashlight.
In a press conference, Pennsylvania State Police said the successful capture was the result of a combination of resources, including thermal imaging from aircraft, ground searches and the deployment of K-9s like Yoda.
Tactical teams had the element of surprise, and Cavalcante was taken into custody after attempting to escape through thick underbrush.
“This is when tactical teams began to converge around where the heat source was moving. However, a weather system moved into the area, bringing lightning and forcing the aircraft to pull away, Bivens explained.
Pennsylvania Governor Josh Shapiro also praised police’s actions at the press conference.
“The public, over the last 13 days, has had a chance to see what excellence in law enforcement means.”
After his recapture, Cavalcante was examined by medics and transported to the state barracks in Avondale. He will be reprocessed and sent to a state institution to serve his life sentence.
Chester County District Attorney Deb Ryan expressed relief at the capture.
“Today is a great day in Chester County. Our nightmare is finally over, and the good guys won.”