Violent felon released on COVID-19 furlough cuts off monitoring device, leads police on high-speed chase

A jail inmate facing a dozen felonies in several cases was released from custody in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and absconded by cutting off his monitoring device.

Patrick Vincent Pitts, Jr., courtesy of Blue Earth County Jail

A violent felon facing a dozen new felony charges and who has a history of fleeing, escape and probation violations was apparently deemed a low-risk candidate for release from custody amid state-wide thinning of jail populations in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Patrick Vincent Pitts, Jr., 23, had been in custody in Blue Earth County Jail on charges in at least three cases filed between September and December that included at least 12 felonies. 

The charges in those cases against Pitts include several counts of burglary, one of which was a home invasion, armed robbery, theft and several counts of felon in possession of firearms and/or ammunition. 

Despite the current pending felony cases against Pitts and his history of numerous prior felony convictions – five since 2017 – Pitts was released from custody on April 3 on electronic home monitoring due to policies implemented across the state to reduce jail populations amid the COVID-19 outbreak, according to a press release by the Madelia, MN police department.

Related: MN Public Defender Advocates for Release of Prisoners Amid Coronavirus Worries

Alpha News has reported that since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, activists have pushed for the release of inmates from county jails and prisons stating that that only “non-violent” and “low level” offenders who pose little or no danger to public safety would be considered for release.

On April 10, several warrants were issued for Pitts’ arrest after he removed his electronic monitoring device, the Madelia PD press release said.

On April 28, agents from the Minnesota River Valley Drug Task Force received information from an investigator with the Nicollet County Sheriff’s Office regarding a fugitive from justice, identified as Pitts, who was possibly located in Madelia at a residence on the 200 block of 1st Street Southwest. Task Force Agents, the Nicollet County Sheriff’s Investigator, Watonwan County Sheriff’s Office, and Madelia Police Department set up surveillance at the residence, but Pitts managed to escape in a vehicle before officers could make contact.

Officers attempted to stop the vehicle and brief high speed pursuit occurred on residential streets that resulted in Pitts running into a garage, driving between two residences, and traveling through multiple alleys before traveling through several back yards where the vehicle became disabled and came to a stop. Pitts then exited the vehicle and fled on foot and was apprehended a short distance away, the release said.

Pitts is back in custody in Blue Earth County Jail on the prior charges and is being held on $1 million bail. Authorities plan to seek additional charges with the Watonwan County Attorney’s Office following Pitts’ escape from monitoring and subsequent police pursuit.

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Minnesota Crime Watch & Information publishes news, info and commentary about crime, public safety and livability issues in Minneapolis, the Twin Cities and greater Minnesota