Teens who escaped Echo Glen have violent criminal histories

Nov 29, 2023, 5:28 AM | Updated: 11:02 am

echo glen...

A sign outside Echo Glen Children's Center in Snoqualmie. (Photo courtesy of KIRO 7)

(Photo courtesy of KIRO 7)

The teens who escaped from the Echo Glen detention center this week have violent criminal records.

The King County Sheriff’s office said all three were captured in a matter of hours after the initial search began shortly after 6 p.m. Sunday. They were taken to the King County Children and Family Justice Center and are being detained after the court found probable cause for escape in the first degree.

Because all three are minors, MyNorthwest is withholding their names pending potential charges in adult court.

One of the teens, a 16-year-old male, is behind bars for killing two people in separate shootings in Renton. Both murders occurred when he was 14 years old. According to documents obtained from the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office, the boy shot and killed a 22-year-old man outside a Safeway in October 2021. A few months later, he shot and killed a 54-year-old man outside a Circle Food convenience store. In both cases, investigators believed the teen did not know the victims and shot them after a short verbal confrontation.

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The two other alleged escapees, a 16-year-old male and a 17-year-old male, were involved in separate prison riots at Echo Glen. Last August, the 16-year-old — also a convicted murderer — was one of five inmates who attempted to escape the facility through the courtyard. According to court documents, “it was clear the juveniles had gained access to the courtyard without permission and were not listening to law enforcement or Echo Glen staff.” According to a 911 call from a facility employee, the teens tried to climb the fence surrounding the facility to escape and, at one point, staff thought one of the juveniles was “AWOL.” As deputies attempted to gain control of the situation, “word was passed along to all law enforcement on scene that they would be stabbed if they tried to enter the courtyard,” according to court records. Officials estimate the riot caused between $175,000 to $200,000 in damage.

The 17 year old, meanwhile, was part of another group charged with rioting at Echo Glen in April. According to the probable cause statement in that incident, the inmates “had taken their shirts off and were talking about fighting and killing the officers on scene,” as well as throwing objects. As officials subdued the group, court records said the 17-year-old boy kicked a Snoqualmie police sergeant and spit on a King County deputy. A source inside Echo Glen told KIRO Newsradio the teen in question is dangerous and known to assault staff members.

Echo Glen Children’s Center has long been plagued by reports of staffing shortages and security concerns, dating back to its opening in 1967. In most cases, youths were taken into custody quickly and without violence. But complaints and concerns are now piling up, illustrated by a 2018 report in which Echo Glen staffers insisted the facility was short-staffed. As recently as this past June, sources told The Jason Rantz Show on KTTH on the condition of anonymity that Echo Glen employees are routinely assaulted, sometimes so severely that they’re sent to the hospital. They complain that the juveniles suffer insufficient consequences for their behaviors, emboldening them to continue.

The Washington State Department of Children, Youth & Families (DCYF), which runs Echo Glen, said on its website that the medium/maximum security facility in Snoqualmie “is not fenced, but is bordered by natural wetlands.” The department said it is designed to be a “therapeutic environment for young people” and aims to enable them to safely return to their communities.

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Sunday’s escape marks the fourth such incident in the past two years and comes just six months after seven teenagers broke out of the facility, ambushing a staff member and stealing her car, according to police. The incident on May 28 led to a regional manhunt for the inmates, who were all recaptured over the course of the next 36 hours. Shortly thereafter, residents of the Eagle Point, Aster Creek and Deer Park neighborhoods, which are near Echo Glen, were able to opt-in to new notifications through the Alert King County system, to provide specific warnings about any escaped juveniles.

Even before these latest cases, DCYF officials announced they were implementing a “number of security changes” after another high-profile breakout of five teens in January 2022. Those changes reportedly included a key-card-controlled, video-activated gate; as well as upgraded staff training protocols and a deep-dive security audit. According to the department, “reviews and administrative investigations are ongoing and will result in additional recommendations and policy and procedural changes.”

It’s uncertain how much progress, if any, has been made since then. Calls to DCYF officials on Tuesday were not returned.

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Teens who escaped Echo Glen have violent criminal histories