The Warren County Jail. File photo by Andy Close.

Investigators Seeking Information About Drone Flying Near Jail Prior to Burham’s Escape

July 12, 2023

YOUNGSVILLE, Pa. – As the manhunt for Michael Burham continues, police announced Wednesday that they are seeking information about a drone that may have been in the vicinity of the Warren County Jail just prior to Burham’s escape.

See also: Commissioners Reiterate Support for Jail Staff, Point to “Structural Weakness” as Primary Cause for Burham’s Escape

“During the course of this investigation, we have also learned that a drone may have been operating in the immediate area of the jail prior to the escape,” Lieutenant Colonel George Bivens, Deputy Commissioner of Operations for the Pennsylvania State Police said during a media conference at the Youngsville Borough Office Wednesday. “We’re looking for more information and we’re asking anyone who may have information about the drone operator or the nature or duration of the flight, please contact us immediately.”

See the full media conference:

The drone is believed to have flown in an area “immediately adjacent to the jail” prior to Burham’s escape. Bivens said information about the drone was obtained in interviews conducted during the course of the investigation.

“We’ve interviewed a couple of people who have provided us information they heard,” Bivens said. “I don’t know if any of them saw it, they heard the drone, and it could be that they saw it, I didn’t conduct the interview myself. But it was immediately adjacent to the jail and the area right around there. Whether it was the parking lot or the street, whatever, but in that general area.

“There aren’t any cameras that picked it up, that’s why we’re looking for some information. As part of the ongoing investigation interviews had been done and that’s where we learned about it and that’s why I’m asking about it now. As I understand it, it’s not on any surveillance videos.”

Police are unable to say at this time whether the drone was used to aid Burham’s escape, or just happened to be in the area.

“We just need to know more about it,” Bivens said. “I’m not a big believer in coincidences. What I will tell you is that just prior to the escape, there was a drone flying in that area. Could be that there is a perfectly innocent and reasonable explanation, could also be that it was somehow connected to his escape and we intend to find out more about that. If there is not an innocent explanation perhaps that assists us in finding him and also finding anyone that’s providing aid.”

He added that police are interviewing individuals who could have provided assistance to Burham.

Bivens said police still believe that Burham is in the area.

“It’s based on my full knowledge of the investigation, all of the investigative leads, tips, information that we gathered using technology. The whole picture is what I base that on,” Bivens said. “Can I guarantee it 100%? No, as I’ve said, that’s why we’re following up on anything that we get from outside the area as well. And can it change at any time? Yes. If he gets access to a car that could change in a moment.”

Investigators have also discovered additional information that strengthens the belief that Burham is armed.

“Without going into a lot of detail, we have additional information that we have gleaned recently that causes me to have additional concerns that he may be armed,” Bivens said. “I think it’s important to keep people, in the interest of transparency, as informed as possible. There may be a point where I can talk about that a little bit more, but for today I’m going to have to stop with ‘We have reason to believe,.’ based on findings and investigative leads. I would say that I have even more concern than I did a few days ago.”

Police do consider Burham to be armed and dangerous and cautioned against approaching Burham if he is seen.

“We certainly don’t want people to take matters into their own hands,” Bivens said. “We do consider him to be a dangerous individual and if he is, in fact, armed, that may not go well. They can certainly defend themselves, obviously, but I would not ask them to do anything to apprehend him.”

Three separate agencies have offered rewards for information leading to Burham’s capture, totaling $19,500. PA Crime Stoppers is offering $10,000, the U.S. Marshals are offering $7,500, and Warren County Crime Stoppers is offering $2,000.

“In terms of the reward, simply calling us with the information may make them eligible for the reward they don’t need to capture him,” Bivens said. “They need to give us information that leads to the capture.”

Anyone with information is asked to call 717-265-9650.

Bivens said, as of 4 p.m. Wednesday, nearly 500 tips had been received from the public.

“We have received amazing support from the public in this investigation,” Bivens said. “That support includes a significant number of tips as well as assistance from local businesses with the logistical support of this operation. We are somewhere in the ballpark of 500 tips that have been called in from the public. From a variety of places, primarily from Northwestern PA and Western New York, but from a number of other states as well.”

Andy Close contributed to this report

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