Two unnamed employees at Jetson Center for Youth have been placed on administrative leave following the escape and capture of two juveniles from the secure facility in Baker, a state official said Monday night.
Louisiana Office of Juvenile Justice Deputy Secretary Mary Livers said at a news conference that Demonte Washington, 15, and Clarence McWilliams, 18, both of Baton Rouge, escaped sometime after 8:15 p.m. July 3 because of negligence.
The latest discipline comes after the center’s director, Daron Brown, was put on administrative leave Saturday following a two-hour chase Friday night of what he believed was a vehicle carrying the two juveniles.
Livers said Monday that Brown remains on leave pending further investigation.
“There’s no information that we have right now that there was any conspiracy,” Livers said of the escape. “It appears to us it was just a mental lapse.”
The escape occurred when two staff members were supposed to be watching McWilliams and Washington in the center’s recreation yard, Livers said. Though still in the recreation yard, the two employees “failed to adequately observe the youth,” allowing the teenagers to get out of their sight, she said.
Livers declined to name the staff members, but she said one had worked at Jetson for about 10 years and the other for less than a year.
McWilliams and Washington slipped behind a building and made their way to the fence, she said.
One teen, who is slender, removed part of the fence that was loose and escaped underneath it, while the other jumped over it, Livers said. The teen who jumped over the fence suffered cuts on his right hand and hip from the fence’s razor wire.
The loose part of the fence has been reinforced, and the rest of the fence will be examined, Livers said.
“We are of course looking at our procedures to see whether or not we need to change the way that we recreate the youth during that recreation time,” she said.
Authorities found and arrested the teenagers late Saturday in a house in the 1000 block of America Street, East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Casey Rayborn Hicks has said.
Before they were captured, however, Brown reportedly sped down Interstate 10 east Friday night to as far as Kenner at speeds in excess of 90 mph, telling authorities that he was chasing the escapees.
Law enforcement agencies, however, have questioned whether such a pursuit took place.
Brown, who was off-duty, said he was following a tip he overheard at about 9:30 p.m. on a police radio regarding a white Chevrolet Tahoe in Scotlandville believed to be carrying the escapees, OJJ spokeswoman Jerel Giarrusso has said.
Brown contacted law enforcement to say that he had spotted the Tahoe and was chasing it down Airline Highway toward Glen Oaks, Giarrusso has said.
Law enforcement representatives from the East Baton Rouge Sheriff’s Office, Baton Rouge Police Department, Kenner Police Department and State Police have all said they never saw the white Tahoe or the director’s car on the interstate.
Law enforcement representatives also said that no one else traveling on the interstate Friday night reported seeing a high-speed chase.
Livers said Monday that Brown was driving on the interstate, but that the car he thought he was pursuing, which, she said, would have been much farther ahead of him on the highway, was never found.
“Director Brown thought he was in a real pursuit,” Livers said. “It was bad information, and he was following up on what he believed was a legitimate lead.”
OJJ is still investigating both Brown’s alleged chase and the escape, Livers said.
“We obviously have to do more to get our staff to be more observant and more diligent,” she said. “If we need to do more training, we’ll do that. We have got to have our staff be on notice all the time.”
Following their capture, McWilliams was booked into Parish Prison on a count of simple escape, and Washington was booked into the East Baton Rouge Parish Juvenile Detention Center on the same count, Hicks has said.