Rantz: State knew of escape plan before Echo Glen inmates broke out
Jun 14, 2023, 5:43 PM | Updated: Jun 15, 2023, 10:20 am
(Photo courtesy of WA Dept. of Children, Youth, & Families)
An email obtained by The Jason Rantz Show on KTTH reveals Washington state officials knew about an escape plan prior to seven dangerous juvenile inmates breaking out of Echo Glen juvenile facility. And court documents indicate on-duty staff were too cozy with the juvenile inmates.
Lori Nesmith, the facility’s Acting Superintendent, emailed staff on May 26 to “raise awareness of an incident that recently occurred at the front gate.” She said that as staff were leaving the facility on May 22 at 11:30 p.m., a driver in a blue car was at the gate and flashed their high beams before proceeding to drive-by. As they passed, “the occupants shined flashlights at the staff and showed a gun.” Then, they drove away.
Then, Nesmith also revealed that they were hearing a rumor about what appeared to be an imminent escape plan.
“Today we received word a youth from the east side of the state had a plan to escape and have his gang friends pick him up. We do not know if these incidents are related,” Nesmith wrote, referencing an Echo Glen who is from eastern Washington.
Planning for the Echo Glen escape
The email, obtained via public disclosure, outlined at least three measures taken “out of an abundance of caution” to prepare for a possible escape. The entire section was redacted by the state, arguing revealing security plans could jeopardize safety. Nesmith said she would “look into the possibility of hiring outside Security.” The measures didn’t work.
Just after midnight on May 28, The Jason Rantz Show on KTTH exclusively reported that seven dangerous juveniles escaped. The King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office allege it was pre-planned.
Two allegedly assaulted a security staffer performing her nightly checks, striking her dozens of times in the face and head, according to police documents. They then allegedly locked her in a cell, stole her car keys and drove off. By May 30, all escapees were captured.
Staff also appeared to be too casual
It’s not clear if any extra measures in the redacted portion of the email were ever taken or if they hired extra security, though it appears they did not. A spokesperson for the Department of Children, Youth and Family, which runs Echo Glen, said he could not comment on security measures.
According to the incident report, the staff weren’t acting as if they knew of any escape plan.
“The [CCTV] recordings make it apparent that the inmates have successfully manipulated the staff members as the two staff members are seen casually interacting with the inmates, hugging several of them, allowing another to take the cordless phone off of the control desk without repercussion, allowing an inmate to use their flashlight, allowing inmates to pretend that spray bottles are guns and point them at the staff members’ heads, allowing the inmates to chase each other around the building and wrestle with each other. At numerous points in time the staff leave the control desk with the computer that locks and unlocks cells unattended while inmates have access to it,” the document concludes.
It’s unclear if those staff members read Nesmith’s memo.
Echo Glen plagued by complaints
For years, staff have voiced their safety concerns. It might explain why this facility sees so many escapes.
Staff members speaking to The Jason Rantz Show on KTTH on the condition of anonymity reveal that Echo Glen employees are routinely assaulted, sometimes so severely that they’re sent to the hospital. They complain that the juveniles suffer insufficient consequence for their behaviors, emboldening them to continue.
They also complain of insufficient staffing. In this latest escape, prosecutors say the security staff member wasn’t found for over an hour as she was held in a cell. The juveniles took her phone so she couldn’t call for help. How can a staff member go unnoticed when missing for over an hour?
Four of the escapees, Jessy James Lee Krikorian, Jr., 16, Timothy G. Hernandez-Ebanks, 17, Jaiquan J. Burnett, 16, and Ramon Pedro Chavez Jr., 16, were charged as adults in King County due to their age and conviction history. They were charged with first-degree robbery, escape in the first degree and theft of a motor vehicle. Hernandez-Ebanks, who previously escaped, and Burnett earned one extra charge each for unlawful imprisonment.
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