Robbery suspect stabs deputy, flees Detroit court

The suspect overpowered Deputy Harrison Tolliver with a plastic comb several times in the neck, then stole his uniform

By Ed White
Associated Press

DETROIT — Dozens of officers fanned out across Detroit on Monday to search for a convicted carjacker accused of using a plastic comb to stab a sheriff's deputy and escape from a downtown courthouse.

Derreck White, 25, also known as Abraham Pearson, was being escorted to court for a long prison sentence for carjacking and other crimes when the attack happened, authorities said.

Wayne County Sheriff's Department personnel rush from the the Frank Murphy Hall of Justice to look for an escaped prisoner Monday, Sept. 9, 2013, in Detroit. (AP Image)
Wayne County Sheriff's Department personnel rush from the the Frank Murphy Hall of Justice to look for an escaped prisoner Monday, Sept. 9, 2013, in Detroit. (AP Image)

He repeatedly stabbed Harrison Tolliver in the neck, took the deputy's uniform, ran from the courthouse and carjacked a minivan, police said.  The vehicle eventually was abandoned blocks away on the city's east side. Tolliver's injuries were not considered serious.

Some schools were locked down as helicopters passed over in the hunt for White. The search focused on the east side before shifting to other parts of Detroit. Tolliver's shirt was recovered, but it was possible White still had the pants, which were beige with a thick dark stripe, and the minivan driver's cellphone.

Police also believe White may have a radio that carries law enforcement communications.

"This criminal has only delayed his appointment with justice. He will be found," Wayne County Sheriff Benny Napoleon said.

Tolliver, 63, was escorting White and two other jail inmates to court on the seventh floor of the courthouse and was removing handcuffs when he was attacked with a comb that had been turned into a sharp weapon, the sheriff said.

"The part of the comb that he was stabbed with broke. It did not inflict any life-threatening injuries," Napoleon said.

He said there was nothing unusual about the courthouse escort procedure, adding, "It occurs thousands of times a year."

White was recently convicted of carjacking and was facing many years in prison. He claimed he was unwittingly given a stolen car as a way to settle a debt, but Judge Dana Hathaway disagreed and found him guilty.

Defense attorney James Howarth said White'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 White 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 sheriff, who oversees security at the courthouse, said he'd prefer to have more than one deputy escorting inmates but the county can't afford it. Tolliver 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."

Copyright 2013 Associated Press

Associated Press
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