PALO ALTO (CBS SF) — Two men being held for the armed robbery of a Sunnyvale Verizon store bolted from the Palo Alto courthouse Monday before a court hearing on the case, in what authorities called a “well-orchestrated, brazen escape.”
The two escaped inmates were identified as Tramel McClough and John Bivins, both of East Palo Alto.
According to the Santa Clara County Department of Corrections, both men were being held at the Elmwood Correctional Facility without bail. Each had a court appearance scheduled at the Palo Alto courthouse on Monday.
The sheriff’s office said the two were being escorted by a deputy at the courthouse at the time of the escape and somehow got away from the deputy around 9:30 a.m. Monday.
The inmates ran out a side door which set off an alarm. But a getaway car was waiting for them just outside the door.
The sheriff’s office said the Toyota getaway car was bought over the weekend and the owner did not register it. It was abandoned about a block away where investigators said Blevins and McClough jumped into a U-Haul van.
“The level of sophistication and the brazenness that it takes for these individuals to do that, that is why we are calling on the public and other allied agencies to help,” said sheriff’s spokesman Reggie Cooks.
Sheriff’s Sgt. Richard Glennon said a handcuff key and discarded restraints worn by the men were found during the course of the investigation.
Bivins was described as a 5-foot, 9-inch, 180-pound black man with brown eyes and black hair. McClough is a 6-foot, 4-inch black man who weighs 285 pounds. Anyone that sees them was advised to call 911 or the sheriff’s office at (408) 808-3670.
“I know they were in for violent crimes and we do consider them dangerous,” said Cooks.
Both men were arrested in February on suspicion of stealing $64,400 worth of cellphones and other merchandise from a Verizon store in Sunnyvale, police said earlier this year.
According to police, the two men were wearing masks when they allegedly forced the store’s employees to open the store’s safe and then tied them up and locked them in a bathroom, police said. One was armed with a handgun and the other with a knife.
The suspects ransacked the store, reportedly taking dozens of cellphones and other merchandise before fleeing in a vehicle. The employees were not injured, police said.
Police found the suspect vehicle about three miles away, at Corte Madera Avenue and Costa Mesa Terrace. The vehicle sped off, starting a short pursuit involving the Santa Clara County sheriff’s air unit, patrol personnel and Mountain View police.
The vehicle eventually stopped in the parking lot of an apartment complex, at which time the driver fled on foot before being captured, police said.
The passenger started to flee before a police officer deployed a conductive energy device and apprehended him. He was treated at a hospital and arrested.
Police found all of the stolen property and the handgun allegedly used in the robbery in the suspect vehicle. The gun had been reported stolen out of Nevada, police said.
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