• 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.