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How did suspect escape Fort Pierce police custody?

'The officer let him get too far away and he took off,' Fort Pierce police Lt. James Grecco says
Posted at 5:19 PM, Feb 26, 2024
and last updated 2024-02-26 17:20:14-05

FORT PIERCE, Fla. — By their admission, the Fort Pierce Police Department said Ernest Lee Reese, 28, is a violent criminal with a criminal record dating back years.

"He has a couple weapons cases; he has some violence in his past battery, aggravated battery," Fort Pierce Police Lt. James Grecco said.

So, when he was able to escape custody Monday morning, carjack someone and be on the run for hours, questions immediately focused on how it could happen.

It's a question WPTV took directly to Fort Pierce police.

Fort Pierce Police Lieutenant James Grecco 02262024.png
Fort Pierce Police Lt. James Grecco explains how suspect Ernest Lee Reese, 28, was able to escape Fort Pierce police custody.

"I would say every case is handled on a different basis," Grecco said. "Not every case is the same, so they're not handled the same. But there is a policy, we have a prisoner transport policy in place."

Reese was arrested around 12:55 a.m. Monday. By 6:30 a.m., he was at HCA Florida Lawnwood Hospital in Fort Pierce.

Grecco said Reese claimed to be faint, so the officer took him to the hospital.

According to Grecco, Reese was discharged from the hospital, he was handcuffed with his hands in front of him, allowed to sit on the curb and given water.

Ernest Lee Reese taken into custody in Port St. Lucie, Feb. 26, 2024

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"Let him sit on the curb because he was in a smaller vehicle. Reese is a bigger man," Grecco said. "The officer let him get too far away and he took off."

Grecco said the officer tried to catch Reese on foot but lost sight of him. Reese got away, accused of carjacking a victim nearby.

Reese was on the run for hours until he was caught Monday afternoon.

Grecco said there would be an internal investigation to determine if the officer faces any discipline.