Brown placed on leave after chase episode
Jetson Center for Youth Director Daron Brown resigned Friday after being placed on administrative leave last month following a reported high-speed chase of a vehicle he claimed carried two youths who escaped from the secure facility.
Jerel Giarrusso, an Office of Juvenile Justice spokeswoman, said she did not know why Brown resigned from the post he’s held for the past four years. She also said she did not know if the office’s investigation into his involvement in the alleged chase is complete.
“All I know is that he tendered his resignation,” Giarrusso said. “That’s the only information I have right now.”
A message left with the office of OJJ Deputy Secretary Mary Livers was not returned Friday. A message left on Brown’s cellphone also was not answered.
Brown, who started at Jetson in 1998, was put on administrative leave July 7 after he claimed to have chased a vehicle he believed was carrying two juveniles who escaped from Jetson earlier that month.
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 located the pursuit and were never notified by other drivers about the chase, which allegedly occurred on July 6 and spanned Interstate 10 from Baton Rouge to Kenner.
Livers said in a July 13 interview that based on a pending internal investigation into the matter, Brown thought there was a car with the escaped youths in it and tried to chase the vehicle.
Livers would not say whether Brown acted outside his authority, citing the investigation. However, she said, Brown used poor judgment when he decided to participate in the pursuit.
Livers said at the time the investigation into Brown should be complete within the next 45 days. She also said the administration’s investigation into two of its juvenile justice specialists — the front-line supervisors of youths at Jetson — should be finished within that same time frame or sooner.
So far, Livers said during the July interview, the investigation has determined the employees “failed to adequately observe” Demonte Washington, 15, and Clarence McWilliams, 18, on July 3 in the center’s recreation yard.
As a result, one of the teens removed part of the exterior fence surrounding Jetson and slithered under it, Livers said. The other teen scaled the top of the fence, which is lined with razor wire. Authorities found Washington and McWilliams four days later in a house in the 1000 block of America Street.
A similar situation played out on Dec. 27 when three teens cut through the exterior fence before walking away from the facility, authorities have said. The teens, one of whom was a convicted rapist, were found six hours later about 8 miles from the center’s campus on Scenic Highway near Baker.
An investigation into the escape showed two employees left a dormitory housing teens at Jetson unwatched for eight hours, allowing the teens to pry loose ceiling tiles in the bathroom, gain access to an adjoining room through the ceiling and flee, authorities have said. During the same time frame, two other employees failed to monitor the grounds at Jetson, the investigation found.
Three of the employees were fired and another one resigned in lieu of termination, Livers said. One of the employees who was fired appealed the disciplinary action to the state’s civil service commission and has since been reinstated, she said.