Echo Glen children’s center tightens security after 5 teenagers escape

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The Echo Glen Children’s Center has made several changes to prevent a repeat of last week’s escape, which involved five teenagers who drove away in a government-owned car.

Youth with maximum security status at the Snoqualmie facility are required to wear orange coveralls and are no longer allowed to mingle with residents of other security levels, said Jason Wettstein, communications director for the State Office for Children, Youth and Family. Additionally, electric carts have replaced the cars used by the facility’s safety and health staff.

The agency also hopes to expand its partnership with the King County Sheriff’s Office to increase the off-campus presence of deputies, Wettstein said in an email.

The sheriff’s office, in turn, hopes to work to increase security on campus, resources permitting, Sgt. Timo Meier said.

Other changes include an increase in campus security rounds, replacing the video surveillance system, and upgrading notification systems, According to a press release from the Department for Children, Youth and Family.

The changes were implemented following a Jan. 26 review of campus security following the escape of five residents, according to the press release.

Three of the five boys, aged 14, 15 and 17, were arrested the following day. A fourth boy, 15 years old, was arrested on Tuesday. The fifth, aged 16, remained at large Thursday.

The four arrested boys were charged Tuesday with first-degree absconding, first-degree kidnapping, unlawful detention, theft of a motor vehicle and double first-degree robbery. The 14-year-old was also charged with second-degree assault for allegedly cutting a counselor’s hand with a knife as he ran to the car, according to the indictment papers.

The Seattle Times does not typically name juveniles accused or convicted of crimes unless charged in adult court.

An Echo Glenn associate reported the escape from the Klickitat Cottage where all five were being housed along with three other teenagers at 7:48 a.m., according to indictment documents.

That morning, a nurse had gone to the cottage to give some of the teenage residents their medication and while he was doing it, two teenagers each grabbed one of the nurse’s arms, according to the indictment papers. He was repeatedly slapped in the face as his pockets were ransacked for keys, wallet and cell phone.

According to the indictment, the nurse was forced into a quiet room and locked there.

A counselor in a common area was approached by a 16-year-old, who snatched the keys to the cottage from her and slapped her on the forehead, according to the charge papers. The counselor was then locked in a cell.

Another counselor alerted staff after seeing the boy try to open the door, documents say. The boy was finally able to unlock the door from the inside and the five teenagers ran to the car where the nurse had arrived.

The 14-year-old cut the second counselor’s palm and was hit in the head, according to documents, as the five teenagers got into the car.

In addition to the changes made after the security clearance, the facility had been working since last April to replace a damaged gate with a more secure gate controlled by a key card and activated by video. Officials expect to install the new gate next week, according to the press release.

New employees will attend a five-week training academy and physical intervention and de-escalation protocols will be updated, according to the press release.

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