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2 Teen Inmates Escape from Moving D.C. Van


April 30, 2002
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2 Teen Inmates Escape from Moving D.C. Van

Youths Get Out of Restraints, Assault Officer, Authorities Say; 1 Still at Large

by Clarence Williams and Sewell Chan, The Washington Post

Two teenagers overpowered a corrections officer yesterday and escaped from a moving vehicle that was transporting five juveniles from D.C. Superior Court to the Oak Hill Youth Center in Laurel, authorities said.

The incident began near Independence Avenue and D Street SE about 1 p.m. when the two teenagers freed themselves from their restraints and assaulted the Youth Services Administration officer, who was seated in the back of the van.

One of the teenagers was captured by D.C. police about an hour later after a brief foot chase that ended near 17th and A streets SE.

Police were searching last night for the second youth, a 16-year-old male, who had appeared in D.C. Superior Court on charges of car theft and driving without a permit, officials said. He is not being identified because he is a minor.

The corrections officer, Bobby E. Tyler, was taken to Howard University Hospital, where he was treated for minor injuries, including abrasions, and released.

In an interview last night, Tyler said one of the teenagers attacked him with blows to the head and simultaneously tried to open the van door. The second youth joined the attack, allowing the first teenager to escape, Tyler said.

The van driver saw what was happening and turned the wrong way onto 19th Street SE, trying to reach the D.C. jail in a hurry, Tyler said. When the van turned a corner, Tyler said, he and the teenager fell out.

Officials said an investigation has begun into the incident.

Youth Services Administration security procedures have been closely scrutinized in the wake of several incidents last year. Seven youths escaped from Oak Hill in May and three in November. In June, a youth who escaped in May -- and then was recaptured -- got away again while being treated at a District hospital, and another youth took off while taking part in the Soap Box Derby near the Capitol.

Yesterday, D.C. Council member Sandy Allen (D-Ward 8) repeated criticisms of Gayle L. Turner, administrator of the Youth Services Administration, which is part of the D.C. Department of Human Services.

"To think that we're still having some of the same basic problems infuriated me," said Allen, who chairs the council committee that oversees the Human Services Department. "I still have questions about Ms. Turner's leadership. Maybe it's just not filtering down from the top, but something is missing in the leadership at YSA."

Turner did not return phone calls for comment last night.

Mark I. Soler, president of the Youth Law Center, a nonprofit advocacy group that has called for Oak Hill's closing, said youths being transported to and from secure detention are generally kept in restraints for their safety and that of others.

"These incidents raise concern about the adequacy of training of the staff and implementation of security protocols within the system," Soler said. "After escapes, assaults and other kinds of security concerns, the security problems evidenced in this newest incident are deeply troubling."




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