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Police Say Reed Acted Alone, Escaped Using Homemade Knife

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DURHAM, N.C. — Contrary to earlier reports, authorities say convicted murderer Omar Reed planned his Friday escape from the Durham County Courthouse all by himself.

Reed had just been convicted of first-degree murder and was waiting for his sentencing hearing when he overpowered a guard, locked her in his holding cell and escaped out a back door.

He was captured several hours later in East Durham and returned toi jail to await sentencing Monday.

Reed pulled out a homemade knife when he subdued his guard. There had been speculation that he had had help from fellow gang members.

Durham County Sheriff Worth Hill announced that Reed, who broke free around 1:30 p.m., was back in custody Friday night.

At the time of his escape, Reed was expected to be sentenced to life in prison without parole.

Maj. Lucy Zastrow of the Durham County Sheriff's Department said Reed made several statements that he "was not going to go back" to prison. Law-enforcement officials believe the 24-year-old planned his escape with the help of fellow gang members.

An employee of a convenient store who had seen photographs of Reed on the news called 911 when she saw Reed using a pay telephone outside her store at 803 East Geer Street. When officers approached Reed, he fled into the nearby woods.

Durham police officers and Durham County sheriff's deputies set up a perimeter, and police K-9s tracked Reed through the woods. He was arrested without incident.

According to the sheriff's office, the deputy spotted Reed going over a fence behind one of the businesses and began to chase him.

Reed ran to a railroad track in the area. The deputy and a Durham policeman were in close pursuit, yelling verbal commands for him to stop. Reed then stopped running, lied down on the railroad track and was arrested.

The capture ended what authorities had termed an all-out manhunt to find Reed, a Durham gang member with a long history of criminal activity, including assault on a police officer. He was considered armed and extremely dangerous.

After his capture, Reed was charged with assault on a government official and felony escape from a local jail.

Because of his escape occurred prior to sentencing, his sentence still has not been pronounced. He will be sentenced Monday.

Police and sheriff's deputies had been scouring Durham to find him after his escape.

After his conviction in the death of William Teasley in June of 2000, Reed was in a holding cell in the basement of the courthouse Friday, waiting for sentencing, when he pulled a homemade weapon on the officer watching him.

"There was one detention officer in the room with him," Zastrow said. "He overpowered her at that time and took her handcuffs and handcuffed her, locked her in the room, and then escaped. I think he held a knife or a shank or something at her throat."

Reed was not wearing handcuffs or shackles when he escaped, which is common during a jury trial. But WRAL was told that he did have 10-pound weights around each ankle.

The courthouse was immediately locked down. A 30-minute search for Reed inside the building came up empty.

Police said there were other gang members in the court, and offficers were investigating whether or not Reed's escape was planned.

Zastrow said law-enforcement officials will conduct an investigation into why and how Reed was able to escape.

"Anytime an escape has taken place, that means we have done something wrong," she said.