Posted Sep 09, 2013 06:15 pm CDT
A downtown Detroit courthouse was on lockdown for much of the morning after a 25-year-old man about to be sentenced in an armed robbery and carjacking case made a dramatic escape Monday, police say.
Wayne County Sheriff Benny Napoleon said Derreck White stabbed a deputy with a sharpened plastic comb and overpowered him and took his uniform as several prisoners, including White, were being transported to a holding cell at the Frank Murphy Hall of Justice. The suspect allegedly wore the uniform to get out of the building, where he allegedly carjacked a parked minivan. He is believed to have changed clothes since then, according to the Associated Press and Fox News.
News accounts vary as to whether a second deputy was briefly taken hostage during the incident, and whether White escaped via a courtroom.
When he overpowered the deputy, White’s hands were being cuffed, according to the Detroit Free Press.
The minivan, which was involved in a crash within minutes after it was stolen, has been found. A manhunt by state and federal authorities continues for White, who is also known as Abraham Pearson, and he is considered armed and dangerous. He may also have a cellphone that was reportedly missing from the minivan. Meanwhile, the stabbed deputy is doing fine, although hospitalized for what Sheriff Napoleon described as several puncture wounds to his neck.
According to defense attorney James Howarth, White said he had hallucinations at one point. Howarth speculates that mental health issues sparked the escape, the AP article says. “In his right mind he would not have done this,” he said of his client, contending that White never showed any sign of being dangerous during the year that Howarth has represented him.
The Free Press says White overpowered the deputy at about 8 a.m., and faced up to 15 years at his scheduled 9 a.m. sentencing. In addition to taking and donning the deputy’s uniform, the prisoner also allegedly took his keys, then used the prisoner elevator to escape the building.
White “obviously paid very close attention to how this whole process works,” said Napoleon.
The courthouse had reopened for business by 11 a.m. Two other prisoners who were with White at the time of the escape did not intervene and did not leave the cell, the Free Press says.