The inmate who briefly escaped from custody early last month is scheduled to appear in Santa Barbara County Superior Court today in order to set a date for a preliminary hearing, prosecutors said.
Nicholas Erickson, 26, faces a four-count felony complaint connected to his 1 1/2 hour evening escape on July 5, according to Deputy District Attorney Heather Trapnell. His escape ended with a K-9 apprehension, during which the dog, Odin, was injured.
It’s not guaranteed that the court will set a preliminary hearing date for his cases today, DDA Trapnell said. “If the defense requests more time to review the cases, they could be continued for another ‘setting.'”
Mr. Erickson is charged with two felony charges of escape by force or violence and assault on a police animal, and two misdemeanor charges of resisting, obstruction or delay of a peace officer attempting to discharge the duties of his office and assault on a police officer with regard to a police animal. He has pleaded not guilty.
He escaped from the Santa Barbara County Main Jail at about 6:50 p.m. July 5. Before he was captured at 8:20 p.m., Mr. Erickson allegedly committed a first-degree, residential burglary and is also alleged to have stolen a vehicle, DDA Trapnell said.
“Mr. Erickson was in custody on two separate felony cases before the escape,” DDA Trapnell said. “Those cases were both felony violations of section 459 of the penal code, first-degree residential burglary with a person present – one on May 12, 2022 and one on June 18, 2022.
“He was still in custody waiting for those cases to either plead or proceed towards trial,” she added. “He has already been arraigned on all his pending cases and has entered not guilty pleas.”
Prior to these cases, Mr. Erickson had been prosecuted once. He was charged with committing a residential burglary on March 31, 2022.
“However, when our office took that case to preliminary hearing on April 28, 2022, the judge found there was not enough evidence to hold the defendant to answer on the felony charge because the judge found there was not sufficient evidence to prove that Mr. Erickson entered the residence with the intent to commit a felony,” DDA Trapnell said. “Therefore, the felony count was dismissed by the court. He was then convicted of misdemeanor aggravated trespass.”
The absolute maximum sentence he could get if convicted on all his pending felony charges and sentenced to the maximum consecutive on everything is 16 years, eight months, she said. “However, it is very unusual for anybody to receive the maximum on all charges.”
Following Mr. Erickson’s escape, deputies immediately locked down the Main Jail in Santa Barbara and notified patrol of the escape, Raquel Zick, the public information officer for the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office, said at the time.
Deputies, including two K9 teams, responded to the area and began searching within minutes. Deputies set up a perimeter area and requested a response from County Air Support to assist with the search.
County Air Support responded with Air 50, a Cessna 206 airplane, and coordinated the search with deputies on the ground. While they were searching, a resident in the 4600 block of Sierra Madre reported seeing a suspicious subject in the area.
As deputies closed in, Air 50 tracked Mr. Erickson as he worked his way through brush towards Oak Glen Drive, Mz. Zick said. Sheriff’s Deputy Phillip Farley and the police dog, Odin, encountered Mr. Erickson who feigned surrender but failed to comply with verbal commands before attempting to flee toward Oak Glen Drive, she said.
Deputy Farley deployed Odin, who tumbled down a hill and fell from an 8- to 10-foot drop onto a sidewalk before apprehending Mr. Erickson in the 4500 block of Oak Glen Drive.
Mr. Erickson was re-arrested at 8:20 p.m. and received medical attention for minor injuries sustained during his escape attempt as well as the K9 apprehension. Odin was treated at an area veterinary hospital for a leg injury and is expected to recover.
The complaint alleges that Mr. Erickson willfully, maliciously and with no legal justification violated the section of the penal code with regard to a police animal “and inflicted serious injury to that animal.”
As such, he is charged with aggravating factors pertaining to Odin’s injuries, in that the crime involved great violence and great bodily harm “disclosing a high degree of cruelty, viciousness or callousness,” the complaint said. “The victim was particularly vulnerable and the manner in which the crime was carried out indicates planning, sophistication and/or professionalism.”
After his capture, Mr. Erickson was re-booked at the Main Jail with additional charges of escape (felony), obstruction (misdemeanor) and harming a police dog (misdemeanor). He was being held on $200,000 bail, up from his original bail of $150,000.
Ms. Zick said custody staff would conduct a thorough and ongoing internal investigation into his escape, but neither she nor Ms. Trapnell would release details about Mr. Erickson’s method of escape because it might compromise jail security.