Johnstown-area native was prominent face in Chester County manhunt

Sep. 13—JOHNSTOWN, Pa. — A Johnstown-area native was a prominent face during a two-week manhunt for an escaped murderer in Chester County.

Lt. Col. George Bivens, deputy commissioner of operations for the Pennsylvania State Police, worked in the command center as law enforcement officers searched for Danelo Cavalcante, 34, who escaped on Aug. 31 from the Chester County Prison.

Bivens gave reporters daily updates on the search, often alerting the public about sightings of Cavalcante, changes in his appearance and other updates until Cavalcante was taken into custody on Wednesday.

Before that, Bivens started his career as a University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown campus police officer. Later, he worked as a trooper in the Somerset, Ebensburg and Uniontown state police barracks. He was promoted to director of the state police Bureau of Criminal Investigation in 2008, The Tribune-Democrat archives show.

Kevin Grady, a former Richland Township police officer and longtime UPJ police chief, praised Bivens for his work during the search.

Grady, who is now retired, said he was "proud" of how Bivens has worked his way up to one of the highest ranks in the state police.

Grady said Bivens grew up in his neighborhood and seemed to have a natural interest in law enforcement as a youth. Bivens served with the Solomon Run Volunteer Fire Department in his teens and, by age 20, was one of Grady's first hires when the campus police department was formed in 1980.

"He was one of the first officers who also had an (emergency medical technician) background in my department, and he was a go-getter," Grady said of Bivens.

Grady wasn't surprised a few years later when Bivens said that he planned to enter the Pennsylvania State Police Academy.

"Over his career, he pretty much did it all," Grady said.

Bivens' work as a criminal investigator has generated national attention before.

In 2014, he was a lead figure during the 48-day search for Eric Frein, a self-described survivalist who ambushed state troopers in the Poconos region of Pennsylvania, killing one and seriously wounding another. Frein is now on death row at a state prison.

In 1999, Bivens received a medal of commendation while serving in Somerset County after he came to the aid of a fellow trooper who was surrounded by Ku Klux Klansmen attending a "White Pride Day" picnic.

The other trooper was conducting surveillance of the 1998 event when he was spotted by Klansmen, one of whom ordered, "Show me a badge ... or you'll be killed."

Bivens, who was supervising the surveillance operation, intervened, and the group dispersed. Later reports said that Bivens gave chase and arrested three men, holding them for several minutes until backup arrived.

Bivens "risked his life by not only coming to the aid of (the other trooper), but by also pursuing and arresting several armed individuals in the extremely hostile environment of a Ku Klux Klan rally," state police said at the time of the commendation.