DETROIT (WWJ) – Wayne County authorities are on the hunt for an escaped prisoner who allegedly stabbed a deputy in a dramatic flight.
Wayne County Sheriff Benny Napoleon says the suspect, 25-year-old Abraham Pearson — aka “Derrek White” — is armed with a makeshift plastic knife and should be considered dangerous.
He said 63-year-old Deputy Harrison Tolliver was transporting three prisoners into a courthouse holding cell at around 8 a.m. when Pearson attacked.
“He overpowered the deputy,” said Napoleon. “He had a plastic comb that he had turned into a weapon — something that wouldn’t have been picked up on the metal detectors that we use to ensure that folks are not armed.”
Napoleon said Tolliver, a retired Detroit police officer who joined the Sheriff’s Office last December, followed all proper procedures.
“It was very quick,” Napoleon said. “He overpowered the deputy, took his clothing, got on the elevator, and escaped — probably within a very short few minutes.”
Pearson is 5 feet, 6 inches tall, weighing 155 pounds, with brown eyes and black hair in dreadlocks. A tattoo on his left forearm reads, “Hot Boyz.” Pearson was last seen wearing a Wayne County officer’s uniform, but that clothing was found by police under a vehicle in the 1300-block of Beaubein.
Along with Derreck White, Pearson also goes by the aliases Weezy and D.C.
Napoleon said Pearson carjacked a woman and took off in her Dodge Voyager — but that minivan was recovered in the area of Concord and Jefferson Ave.
Napoleon said Tolliver was transferring Pearson and two other prisoners on his own and without a firearm.
“As a matter of practice, deputies who transport prisoners from the jail to the court are not armed — just to make sure that this person would not have access to a weapon during the course of that transport,” Napoleon said.
Asked whether or not a second deputy should have been assisting in the transport, Napoleon called that “a staffing issue.”
Tolliver, who was stabbed in the neck, was taken to Detroit Receiving Hospital for treatment of several puncture wounds. He was listed in good condition Monday afternoon.
The Frank Murphy Hall of Justice was on lock-down following the incident as multiple law enforcement agencies — including Homeland Security and the FBI — searched for the suspect.
“I will say that this is a cooperative effort,” said Detroit Police Chief James Craig. “Number one is we want to get his dangerous individual off the streets; and we’ll stay in this area as long as it’s necessary to make sure that we apprehend him.”
“We have good information that we’re working on,” Craig said.
Reporting from the scene, WWJ’s Marie Osborne said officers swarmed the area — searching porta-potties and alleyways around the courthouse while hundreds of people waited to be allowed inside.
“This is a very, very busy place right now — lots of unmarked police vehicles are circling this area, as well as marked vehicles,” Osborne reported. “Police are keeping everyone at a safe distance away.”
Judges and court staffers told WWJ they were locked inside their offices and courtrooms for a time. After 10 a.m., people were gradually being allowed back into the building. Several area schools were on also on lock-down, as a precaution.
Pearson has a lengthy criminal history — including previous convictions for breaking and entering and assault — and was on parole.
He was at the courthouse Monday facing sentencing on carjacking, armed robbery and firearms charges.
Pearson’s defense attorney, James Howarth, said his client has history of mental illness but was found competent to stand trial.
He said he believes Pearson’s mental health issues may have played a role in his escape.
“In his right mind he would not have done this,” Howarth said. “In the year I have known him, he has never showed the slightest symptom of being dangerous. Something is very wrong.”
Of the escape, Howarth said: “It may have been a final act of desperation if you don’t want to go to prison.”
Anyone who spots Pearson or who has information about his whereabouts is asked to contact the Sheriff’s Office at 313-224-0414 or dial 911.
“This criminal has only delayed his appointment with justice,” said Napoleon. “He will be found.”