Two Inmates Pull Off Brazen, ‘Orchestrated’ Escape From Court in Palo Alto: Sheriff’s Office

"At this time, we can't say how they were able to get away from the deputy and escape," sheriff's spokesman says

Two inmates remained on the loose Monday after they managed to pull off a brazen escape at a courthouse in Palo Alto, according to the Santa Clara County Sheriff's Office.

The men, who are considered to be "dangerous," were leaving a courtroom around 9:30 a.m. when they made a beeline for an exit, hopped in a getaway car and drove two to three blocks before jumping into a U-Haul cargo van and fleeing again, sheriff's spokesman Sgt. Reggie Cooks said.

"We believe that it was an orchestrated escape where the individuals had a car staged," Cooks said. 

It is not clear if a driver was involved, or if the inmates had the getaway cars planted and drove off on their own. Investigators had not yet located the U-Haul van.

John Bivins, 47, is described as being 5 feet, 9 inches tall and 180 pounds, with brown eyes and black hair, the sheriff's office said. Tramel McClough, 46, is 6 feet, 4 inches tall and 285 pounds, with brown eyes and black hair. 

Santa Clara County Sheriff's Office

Bivins and McClough, who were under the watch of a deputy, were leaving a courtroom and were in a courthouse hallway when they made their escape. 

"At this time, we can't say how they were able to get away from the deputy and escape," Cooks said. "We’re always monitoring our policies and procedures, looking to see how we can improve, and those things we will do."

The men fled the area wearing jail clothing consisting or orange and gray shirts, Cooks said. Both men were restrained by some type of device when they escaped, but it is not clear if those devices were handcuffs, waist restraints or shackles.

Later Monday, police found a key outside the courthouse in the pair's path of escape.

Merchants and other neighbors of the courthouse witnessed the manhunt in disbelief.

"In light of yesterday’s events, obviously I think everyone has a heightened sense of awareness," said Jeff Ostrum, of Palo Alto.

Police eventually stopped the search in Palo Alto, saying they believe the escapees fled the area.

Bivins and McClough were being held without bail after robbing a Verizon store of $64,000 in merchandise in February. Police have said they tied up the store employees, forced one to open a safe and were arrested a short time later after a car chase.

If anyone sees the men, they are asked to call 911 immediately. People should not approach or try to detain the men. It is not clear if they are armed.

"The level of sophistication and the brazenness that it takes for the individuals to (escape) is why we are calling on the public and other allied agencies to help," Cooks said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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