Published September 10, 2013
Police in Michigan have captured a fugitive who escaped from a Detroit courthouse Monday after stabbing a sheriff's deputy in the neck with a plastic comb.
Abraham Pearson was taken into custody Monday night after a brief chase on foot near the intersection of Interstate 94 and Mt. Eliot Road. Law enforcement had received a tip from a citizen who spotted Pearson walking in the area.
MyFoxDetroit.com reported that Pearson escaped from a holding cell at the Frank Murphy Hall of Justice after stabbing 63-year-old sherriff's deputy Harrison Tolliver three times in the neck with an improvised knife. Pearson then took the deputy's uniform, cell phone, and radio and escaped out the back door before carjacking a van. The vehicle was found abandoned blocks away from the courthouse on Detroit's east side.
"He snatched the door open and said, 'Get out or I'll kill you!"' motorist Patricia Banford told TV station WDIV.
Pearson was due to be sentenced Monday after being convicted last month of carjacking, armed robbery and firearms charges. He was facing up to 10-15 years in prison. Wayne County Sheriff Benny Napoleon said that Pearson would face an additional 11 charges related to his assault and escape.
Tolliver's injuries were not considered serious and he was released from a local hospital earlier today.
MyFox Detroit.com reports that standard procedure calls for two deputies to be in a holding cell when a prisoner's handcuffs are removed. However, Tolliver was the only deputy in Pearson's cell on Monday. Napoleon said Monday night that he would prefer to have more than one deputy escorting inmates but 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."
Defense attorney James Howarth said Pearson's mental health was an issue. He spent months at a state psychiatric center before being found competent to face trial. One expert accused him of malingering.
Howarth, however, said Pearson reported a history of hallucinations, and he wonders if mental health played a role in the escape.
"In his right mind, he would not have done this," Howarth told The Associated Press outside the courthouse. "In the year I have known him, he has never showed the slightest symptom of being dangerous. Something is very wrong. ... It may have been a final act of desperation if you don't want to go to prison."
The Associated Press contributed to this report