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Inmate stabs deputy, steals uniform, carjacks minivan at Detroit courthouse

Bystanders describe a prisoner's violent escape from a Detroit courthouse after he stabbed a deputy, stole the officer's uniform and keys and carjacked a woman. WDIV's Lauren Podell reports.

A manhunt lasted all day and into the night Monday for an inmate who escaped from a Detroit courthouse by stabbing a sheriff's deputy with a makeshift shank, stealing his uniform and keys, and carjacking a minivan, authorities said. He was finally apprehended late Monday night, cops said.

"He is armed and dangerous," Detroit Police Chief James Craig had said earlier of the suspect, identified as convicted armed robber Abraham Pearson, 25, who uses the alias Derreck White.

The injured deputy, who was unarmed and working alone, was putting three inmates in a seventh-floor holding cell at the Frank Murphy Hall of Justice and had just uncuffed Pearson when he pulled a homemade weapon, officials said.

Wayne County Sheriff's Department via AP

This undated photo provided by the Wayne County Sheriff's Department shows Abraham Pearson, alias Derreck White, 25.

"He used a comb that had been fashioned into a shank to overcome the deputy, stabbed him several times in the neck," Wayne County Sheriff Benny Napoleon told reporters.

"After he stabbed the deputy, he took the deputy’s clothing, he took his keys, he got on the prisoner elevator and he escaped from the building."

The unidentified deputy had several puncture wounds to the neck but they were not life-threatening, officials said. He was able to call for help using a courthouse phone, but the inmate was in the wind by then.

Once outside, Pearson stole a 2000 gray Dodge Voyager from a 58-year-old woman but later ditched the vehicle and the deputy's uniform, police said. 

More than 13 hours after the escape, cops announced that they caught Pearson, just before midnight local time. Napoleon said it was a joint effort of his office, Detroit police, Michigan State Police and the U.S. Border Patrol.

He was caught while walking eastbound on the I-94 service drive near Mount Elliott, police said.

Pearson had spent more than five years in prison for assault during an armed robbery and breaking and entering before being paroled in January 2012, officials said.

He was locked up later that winter for a month for failing to report to his parole officer, and absconded again when he was released. In September 2012 he was arrested on carjacking, armed robbery and weapons charges and convicted in a non-jury trial, prison officials said.

He was due to be sentenced for those crimes when he bolted.

His lawyer, James Howarth, said he believes Pearson has mental issues and wanted to mount an insanity defense, but two psychiatrists found him competent.

"In my initial conversation with him, he had no knowledge of the incident and talked about hallucinations," Howarth told NBC News. "He appeared not to be in any touch with reality whatsoever."

Howarth said Pearson was offered a plea deal that would have given him the minimum sentence of nine years but turned it down. After being convicted, he was likely facing 15 years.

"I imagine it weighed pretty heavily on his head," Howarth said.

He encouraged his client to surrender.

"I have concerns of him hurting himself, concerns of him hurting someone else and concerns of people hurting him," the lawyer said. "He's got to know the amount of trouble he is in right now can only get worse unless he gives himself up."

Officials said courthouse procedures would be reviewed because of the escape, but it does not appear the deputy broke any rules.

A massive manhunt is underway in Detroit, Mich., for a prisoner who escaped from the courthouse after taking a stabbing a sheriff's deputy and carjacking a minivan. WDIV's Shawn Ley reports.

“Usually, we have a deputy transport anywhere up to five prisoners alone -- it’s a staffing issue,” Napoleon told NBC station WDIV.

He said courthouse metal detectors would not have picked up the plastic comb smuggled in by Pearson.

"He obviously paid very close attention to how the process works," the sheriff said.

Follow Tracy Connor on Twitter at @TracyConnorNYC

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