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Arrest report describes how handcuffed felon escaped police custody

According to police, woman said she tried to cover herself with pillow as suspect got on bed, continued to try to stab her
Posted at 11:11 PM, Feb 27, 2024
and last updated 2024-02-28 09:25:23-05

FORT PIERCE, Fla. — New documents filed by the Fort Pierce Police Department reveal new details on how a suspect escaped from police custody Monday outside a St. Lucie County hospital.

Ernest Lee Reese, 28, was arrested Monday. Feb. 27, 2024
Ernest Lee Reese, 28, was arrested Monday.

The department said Ernest Lee Reese, 28, escaped from custody and carjacked a victim after he was released from HCA Florida Lawnwood Hospital. Police described him as a violent criminal and said he was captured in a Port St. Lucie neighborhood, not far from Treasure Coast High School, after a five-hour-long manhunt.

Reese was arrested after a woman said he stabbed her in the leg and face with a green knife, according to a police report. Police said the woman believed she was stabbed over income tax money and tried to cover herself with a pillow as Reese got on the bed, continuing to attack her.

Police said the woman eventually left the house after pushing him off and then called 911. Police said Reese called the woman several times, threatening her before hanging up the phone. The documents also show probes from an Axon Taser 7 hit Reese after he kept reaching into his waistband while running from police.

Police said they found a knife and jacket, which had a small purple stun gun. The stun gun, police said, had a lion pictured with a lightning bolt, which appeared to be a "Cheetah Max Power Purple Stun Gun." The report said Reese was then taken to HCA Florida Lawnwood Hospital for medical clearance and then to the St. Lucie County Jail.

Court records show Reese is facing charges of aggravated battery, resisting an officer and possession of a weapon by a felon, along with an outstanding warrant for failing to appear in court in St. Lucie County.

Lt. James Grecco, who works for the Fort Pierce Police Department, said the inmate "claimed to be faint" and an officer brought him to the hospital. He then said an officer got Reese some water before he ran away in handcuffs.

"The officer let him get too far away and he took off," Grecco said.

WATCH: Fort Pierce police discuss suspect's escape

Fort Pierce police hold news conference about suspect who escaped from custody

Police said Reese ran through the hospital parking lot, where he found Joseph Strahl in his Honda Civic. According to the report, Stahl said he was talking to his girlfriend when Reese opened the passenger door and entered the vehicle.

The report said Reese started grabbing his shirt and threatened to bite him after Stahl refused to drive away with Reese in the car. According to police, Stahl saw his handcuffs and then gave the keys to Reese after a scuffle.

Police said the stolen vehicle was found without any damage on Northwest North Macedo Boulevard in Port St. Lucie. Then, authorities released various K-9 teams to find Reese. Ultimately, those efforts were successful, and Reese was found with only one handcuff on his right wrist.

Area in Port St. Lucie where car found after Ernest Lee Reese carjacking, Feb. 26, 2024
This is where police found the car that Ernest Lee Reese stole during a carjacking after he escaped from custody, Feb. 26, 2024, in Port St. Lucie, Fla.

Police said Reese declined to talk after he was back in custody but claimed the last thing he remembered was being hit in the mouth by a Taser. He faces charges of carjacking and attempted escape.

WPTV contacted Stahl, who declined to comment about the event.