Two inmates escape from Palo Alto courthouse | News | Palo Alto Online |


Two inmates escape from Palo Alto courthouse

Sheriff's office: Anyone with information about men's whereabouts should call 911

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Tramel Leon McClough, 46, and John Penn Bivins, 47, both of East Palo Alto, fled from a deputy during a court appearance in Palo Alto on Nov. 6, 2017. Images courtesy Santa Clara County Sheriff's Office.

Update: Two people have been arrested for allegedly helping the inmates flee from custody. Read the story here.


Law enforcement agencies have launched a manhunt for two Santa Clara County inmates who escaped from the Palo Alto courthouse Monday morning, sheriff's officials said.

Tramel Leon McClough, 46, and John Penn Bivins, 47, both of East Palo Alto, escaped from the courthouse located at 270 Grant Ave., triggering an active manhunt involving the Santa Clara County Sheriff's Office and law enforcement agencies throughout the area.

Sgt. Reggie Cooks, spokesman for Santa Clara County Sheriff's office, said the escape happened after the two inmates evaded a deputy, fled the courthouse and used two different vehicles to stage an escape.

"They were able to come out of the courtroom, into the hallway and were able to get to one of the exit points, at which point there was a car waiting for them, where they were able to jump into the car," Cooks said during a press conference outside the courthouse.

He said the inmates escaped around 9:30 a.m., eluding the deputy who was supervising them during their court appearance. It's not yet clear how they managed to get away from the deputy, Cooks said.

The inmates were in a hallway was adjacent to an elevator when they ran to a marked emergency exit, sheriff's officials said in a press release.

After getting into the sedan, a burgundy Toyota Camry, they drove away for two or three blocks before switching to a U-Haul cargo van, Cooks said.

Deputies found the original car that the suspects used shortly after the escape, 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 said.

Though he couldn't say whether McClough and Bivins are armed, he noted that they had both been arrested for violent crimes and are considered dangerous.

Investigators later found discarded restraints and a handcuff key outside the courthouse, sheriff's officials said.

In a tweet, the Palo Alto Police Department said there is no "active search" in Palo Alto for the two men.

Shortly after noon, police scanner activity indicated that there was a "possible sighting" of one of the men walking across a street in Mountain View.

McClough and Bivins are described as black men with brown eyes and black hair. McClough is about 6 feet 4 inches and weighs roughly 285 pounds. Bivins is around 5 feet 9 inches tall and weighs about 180 pounds.

The two inmates were in Palo Alto on Monday for a hearing, according to Santa Clara County Superior Court. They are co-defendants in a trial and were wearing gray-and-orange jail clothing.

According to the Santa Clara County Department of Corrections Inmate Locator, both men were being held at the Elmwood Correctional Facility in Milpitas without bail.

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 two men allegedly ransacked the store, reportedly taking dozens of cellphones and other merchandise before fleeing in a vehicle. The employees were not injured, police said.

Shortly after the robbery, 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 stun gun 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.

Both McClough and Bivins were charged with four counts of robbery, two counts of false imprisonment, one count for fleeing or attempting to elude a pursuing police officer and one count as a felon in possession of a firearm, according to the Santa Clara County Superior Court. Bivins was also charged with kidnapping, conspiracy as two or more people planning to commit any crime and resisting arrest.

The Monday escape immediately raised questions about the security protocols at the courthouse. Cooks said inmates are typically handcuffed, waist-chained, shackled and supervised by a deputy during court appearances, though he could not say exactly how McClough and Bivins were restrained during their escape.

He said they left the building through a side door, which does not have a metal detector, triggering an alarm. They then ran across the street, toward an awaiting vehicle.

At this time, the sheriff's office can't say how they were able to get away from the deputy and escape, Cooks said, though it plans to review the security protocols.

"We always look at our policies and our practices to see what other security measures we can put in place -- whether it's adding extra levels of security on doors, keeping the doors locked or adding extra deputies to the fold to be able to apprehend these individuals," Cooks said.

Shortly after 10 a.m. Monday, eight sheriff's deputies were seen near their parked cars outside the front entrance to the courthouse, which was blocked off with yellow crime scene tape. A black helicopter was also hovering in front of the courthouse over Oregon Expressway.

Santa Clara County sheriff vehicles were also scattered along Page Mill Road, at all major intersections, in the early afternoon hours. Deputies took down yellow caution tape outside the courthouse on Birch Street and Grant Avenue shortly before 1 p.m.

Anyone who sees the two men or has information on the inmates' whereabouts is asked to call 911 or the sheriff's office at 408-808-3670.

This story will be updated as more information becomes available.


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10 people like this
Posted by aneighborinBP
a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 6, 2017 at 10:53 am

Do we need to shelter in place? There is helicopter activity right over us? How come nothing has been communicated to citizens via reverse 911 or Nixle? Are nearby schools on lockdown?

8 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 6, 2017 at 11:10 am

The Mercury-News said they fled in a car, so very unlikely they are still in the area
Web Link

Like this comment
Posted by Update?
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 6, 2017 at 12:05 pm

Channel 2 KTVU Noon News said car was ditched several blocks away. Not sure if most current info, but that's what I heard a few minutes ago.

25 people like this
Posted by XDM
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Nov 6, 2017 at 12:15 pm

How the heck does the sherriff department let someone escape like this? Are inmates not supposed to be chained and with police escorts at all times? Come on.

8 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 6, 2017 at 12:44 pm

Probably safest day for schools in Palo Alto...These fugitives want to disappear from the face of the earth , not go to a schools and be seen by thousands

Like this comment
Posted by IsThatWhy
a resident of Menlo Park
on Nov 6, 2017 at 1:14 pm

Is this why there was an unmarked police car with a plain clothes officer in kevlar at University and Woodland and another at Embarcadero and 101 this morning?

6 people like this
Posted by VS
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Nov 6, 2017 at 1:59 pm

VS is a registered user.

"They reportedly escaped while being escorted from the Department 89 courtroom to a basement holding cell, which requires exiting the building and reentering through another door that leads to the basement. McClough was in waist chains and leg irons. Bivins was chained to other inmates, but apparently managed to slip out of the restraints."

14 people like this
Posted by Chuck
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 6, 2017 at 2:28 pm

Santa Clara county Sheriffs way to screw this one up.. This can never happen, Ever.. Inmates should be chained up at all times. Still makes know sense. Ether way . [Portion removed.] Do your job or find someone who's capable of doing it..

7 people like this
Posted by Marlene Dietrich
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Nov 6, 2017 at 2:40 pm

This is scary since I live in EPA. I have seen Crime T.V. Shows where the inmates use to hide in the places more obvious, for example, everybody thinks that they are far away trying to disappear [portion removed] when they usually comeback to his own home or with a family close to the area!
I didn’t see any police searching around this morning, I didn’t even see helicopters or something, everything looks calmed...and this is even more scary !!!

5 people like this
Posted by Vin
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 6, 2017 at 4:18 pm

I would not hang around Palo Alto. Too many people with guns.

5 people like this
Posted by Anke
a resident of Mountain View
on Nov 6, 2017 at 6:54 pm

"Inmates should be chained up at all times."

It appears they had help. This article reports a handcuff key being found, and quotes officials calling it a "" well-orchestrated, brazen" event".

Web Link

It all feels like something straight from a crime show :-O

7 people like this
Posted by Confused
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Nov 6, 2017 at 8:53 pm

Sounds like an inside job- I am also disappointed about the lack of transparency/ communication from the courthouse- Were they chained up? How did they communicate with those on outside whom apparently arranged get away cars, etc.?

City of PA officials I hope you are pressing for answers from Sheriff's office, given that they are transporting felons into our city.

5 people like this
Posted by Lima Verde Resident
a resident of South of Midtown
on Nov 6, 2017 at 11:59 pm

Hey Sheriff's Dept:
You had one job.
And for this the deputy will get a significant pension and benefits.
There is zero accountability in public sector jobs.
Heroes, public servants: I don't think so.
Borderline incompetent: more likely.

5 people like this
Posted by Clunge
a resident of Menlo Park
on Nov 7, 2017 at 8:50 am

Clunge is a registered user.

Well that's exciting news - hope nobody gets hurt. I wonder what ties they have to the community, long standing EPA residents or just a more recent move.
Stay safe everyone, everyday, not just the days you hear something is amiss... cause it's when you DONT hear something is wrong... that's when they get ya.

10 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Nov 7, 2017 at 10:56 am

mauricio is a registered user.

If they managed to uncuff themselves it means only one thing-an inside job.

15 people like this
Posted by Chip
a resident of Professorville
on Nov 7, 2017 at 11:39 am

One inattentive deputy supervising a combined 465 lbs of previously violent inmates & nobody guarding the exits? Maybe dudes like this shouldn't be at the PA courthouse which is better suited to hearing traffic violations or civil matters. No bailiffs? Any courtroom guards? Somebody deserves a Darwin award.

1 person likes this
Posted by Palo Alto
a resident of Stanford
on Nov 8, 2017 at 12:18 pm

ANY other state a inmate escapes - LOCK DOWN! There is breaking news on the TV/RADIO/PHONE ALERTS. Caught within a couple of day's or there are those instances where they take a week or max two. Rarely tho.

Whats up PA?

Like this comment
Posted by Anke
a resident of Mountain View
on Nov 8, 2017 at 8:50 pm

Now a $25k award is being offered.

Web Link

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