Inmates at large after escaping from Palo Alto Courthouse, considered dangerous

From staff and wire reports

Two men charged with tying up employees at gunpoint during a cellphone store robbery made a dramatic escape today (Nov. 6) from the Palo Alto Courthouse at 270 Grant Ave., fleeing in a car waiting outside for them, sheriff’s officials said.

The escape by Tramel McClough, 46, and John Bivins, 47, appeared to be orchestrated, and investigators were trying to determine how they got away from a sheriff’s deputy who had been guarding them.

Both are considered dangerous.

The two escaped from a deputy escorting them through a public hallway outside a courtroom where McClough and Bivins had been brought for a hearing around 9:30 a.m., Sgt. Reggie Cooks said. They ran through an emergency exit, down stairs and outside to a waiting car, Cooks said. They abandoned the car a few blocks away for a U-Haul moving van, Cooks said. People were asked to call police if they see them but not to approach them.

A handcuff key and discarded restraints were found nearby, Cooks said.

“The level of sophistication and brazenness it takes for the individuals to do that — that is why we’re calling on the public and other allied agencies to help,” Cooks told reporters.

The Palo Alto Police Department said on Twitter that the men were believed to have left the area in a vehicle and officers were not searching for them in the city. The two men live in East Palo Alto.

Officials said they were held without bail after robbing a Verizon store in Sunnyvale of $64,000 in merchandise in February. Police have said they were wearing masks when they tied up the store employees, forced one to open a safe and then they fled away.

Police found the suspect vehicle about 3 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
Taser 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.

Investigators are working to determine whether McClough and Bivins are responsible for other armed robberies in the Bay Area.

Today’s escape is the latest setback for the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Department, which runs the county’s jails and is responsible for escorting inmates to and from court.

Four inmates escaped from the county’s main jail last year by cutting through metal bars and rappelling to freedom using a rope made of clothing and sheets.

Last month, a clerical error led to the mistaken release of an inmate from jail on the day he was sentenced to an 8-year prison term for armed robbery. He was captured a week later.

In June, three former jail guards were convicted of murder for beating a mentally ill inmate to death in 2015.