Authorities search for a man who escaped a courthouse in Detroit, Monday, Sept. 9, 2013. Derreck White, 25, who police said also used the name Abraham Pearson, was awaiting sentencing in an armed robbery and escaped a Detroit courthouse on Monday after stabbing a sheriff’s deputy several times in the neck and carjacking a motorist. The escape prompted a lockdown of the facility and sparked a manhunt. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
DETROIT (AP) — A man who escaped from a downtown courtroom after stabbing a sheriff’s deputy with the sharpened end of a comb was captured thanks to a 911 caller who described bumping into the convicted felon outside a convenience store
Detroit police released the two-minute 911 call Tuesday afternoon in which a man who did not identify himself animatedly described his encounter with Abraham Pearson. Authorities had been searching for Pearson for about 14 hours when the call came in at 9:49 p.m. Monday.
“You know the guy who had escaped earlier? I just seen him at the store,” the man said at the outset of the call.
“He kind of scared me,” the caller told the dispatcher later. “He seen me walking out the store. He like, ‘Yeah, I’m the guy that got away earlier.'” I’m like, ‘Uh, OK then.’ I just kept it on moving.”
When police arrived, Pearson “was attempting to flag down cars in an attempt to get a ride,” the sheriff’s office said in a statement Tuesday. Police caught him after a brief foot chase. The Wayne County sheriff’s office said the 25-year-old had been hiding in a vacant house as authorities conducted a manhunt across parts of Detroit.
Pearson is now charged with assault with intent to commit murder, armed robbery, carjacking and other crimes connected to his day on the lam. He eluded dozens of law enforcement officers searching wooded fields, overgrown city lots, alleys and vacant houses until the 911 call.
The sheriff’s deputy who was attacked, Harrison Tolliver, was treated and released from a local hospital.
Pearson, also known as Derreck White, was being escorted to the seventh floor of the downtown Detroit courthouse Monday morning to be sentenced for armed robbery and other crimes. White attacked after his handcuffs were removed, using a sharpened plastic comb to repeatedly stab Tolliver in the neck, according to Wayne County Sheriff Benny Napoleon.
Pearson stole Tolliver’s uniform and ran from the courthouse, stopping only to force a woman from her minivan, then drove the vehicle from the scene, police said. He abandoned the minivan blocks from the courthouse, on the city’s east side.
Dozens of officers fanned out across Detroit to search for Pearson.
The 911 caller said that when he encountered Pearson, the wanted man was walking east along Harper Avenue, a busy city street for cars that doesn’t have a lot of pedestrians, particularly after dark.
“He’s trying to get to the west side. He asked me how to get there,” the caller said. “He’s the only guy walking up Harper. Don’t nobody walk up Harper. You better catch him before he gets to Mount Elliott.”
Pearson will face additional charges related to the alleged attack and escape, Napoleon said. He was expected to be arraigned Wednesday.
“He’s looking at a considerable amount of time,” the sheriff said.
The sheriff, who oversees security at the courthouse, said he would prefer to have more than one deputy escorting inmates but that the county can’t afford it. Tolliver, 63, joined the sheriff’s department after retiring as a Detroit police officer.
“It’s a dangerous job,” Napoleon said. “We’re streamlined as much as we can.”
Napoleon said his office was trying to determine how the comb used to stab Tolliver was hidden from the time Pearson left the jail, to the inmate transport van and finally to the courtroom holding cell. He also said authorities are looking into whether official policies and procedures were followed.
Pearson also will be sentenced Sept. 23 in circuit court on his original carjacking and armed robbery conviction. He was facing 10 to 15 years in prison on those charges. He also was arraigned Tuesday on a warrant for failing to appear at Monday’s sentencing, according to the sheriff’s office.
Associated Press writer Ed White in Detroit contributed to this report.