A District teenager who was being held at a youth detention facility attacked a guard early Monday morning, stole his keys, climbed the fence using a nearby ladder and escaped in the guard’s car, officials said.
D.C. police are still looking for the youth, a 17-year-old from Southeast, who escaped from New Beginnings Youth Development Center in Laurel. The guard was beaten so badly that he was unconscious, according to one source.
“We’ve got a big problem here,” said Councilman Jim Graham (D), who oversees the District’s Department of Youth Rehabilitative Services.
Neil Stanley, interim directory for DYRS, did not immediately return calls for comment. DC police referred calls to the youth rehabilitative services agency.
Tasha Williams, chair of the union that represents correctional officers at New Beginnings, said the escapee and another resident popped open the locked doors to their rooms, came out and beat the officer. They stole his swipe card to leave the unit and made their way to an exterior fence, where a ladder was lying around, she said.
The 17-year-old was able to quickly climb up the ladder to escape, and the other youth was caught. Graham said the ladder had been left by a maintenance crew.
The youth jumped into the guard’s black Lexus with an FOP license plate and sped off, according to a source. He was placed there because of burglary and theft charges, said another source.
Williams said the youths took advantage of minimum staffing during the overnight shift. The officer who was attacked, a 20-year veteran, was guarding 10 residents, each in his own room, she said.
Graham said the 17-year-old has been in DYRS custody since January 2010, though it was not clear whether he was held at New Beginnings for all of that time.
New Beginnings, a 60-bed facility, replaced the long-troubled Oak Hill detention center.
This was the third escape at the secure facility, which has been open less than two years, Williams said. She said she has warned officials that the exterior fence is too close to the dorms, and that there are not enough officers on duty during the overnight shift.
“You may as well not call it a secure facility,” Williams said. “You may as well call it playground detention.”
While New Beginnings is located in Anne Arundel County, it is a center run for and by the District’s DYRS.