BRIDGE CITY, La. (WVUE) — Six incarcerated minors escaped early Sunday, July 17, from the Bridge City Center for Youth. Five were quickly picked up, officials said, but the 17-year-old was later captured in a vehicle chase.
The Office of Juvenile Justice has not publicly identified the still-at-large escapee, although state law allows for public release of the names of escaped minors.
The six minors escaped from the beleaguered facility at 3225 River Road around 2:30 a.m., officials said. After the escape, the OJJ said the facility was locked down and local law enforcement was notified.
Sunday’s escape was at least the fourth escape from the Bridge City center this year, and the fifth since last November. During this period, at least 20 juvenile detainees escaped from the facility.
State Senator Patrick Connick said it was time the facility was shut down.
“We were told there would be increased security, increased police presence, state police and other enforcement officials,” Connick told Fox 8 on Sunday. “And if so, then why did it happen?”
Capt. Jason Rivarde, spokesman for the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office, said five of the escapees were captured after they stole a truck in the 1200 block of River Road.
A JPSO deputy saw the truck driving without headlights on and attempted to stop the vehicle. After a short chase, the truck crashed into a wooded area, having repeatedly slammed into the MP’s unmarked silver sedan.
Two 17-year-olds, two 16-year-olds and a 12-year-old escapee were in the truck and were captured at the scene, Rivarde said. It was unclear whether the sixth escapee was already in the truck or had fled separately.
Then around 5:50 p.m., LSP and NOPD located a stolen vehicle near Old Gentilly Road. The soldiers attempted to carry out a traffic check when the vehicle fled in pursuit.
The suspect crashed the vehicle near the intersection of Avenue Saint-Bernard and Rue Rocheblave Nord. One of the minors apprehended was the 17-year-old Bridge City Youth Center escapee.
The escapee still at large was registered in the National Crime Information Center (NCID) database, the agency said. The OJJ also said a command center had been established at the Bridge City facility to “collect, track and distribute information to aid in the arrest”.
Angered by frequent escapes and a June riot that required the intervention of the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office SWAT team to quell it, nearby residents, JP council members and Connick called Governor John Bel Edwards to order the closure of the establishment.
Connick said he had already spoken to Edwards about this latest escape.
“The governor has to do something to stop it,” Connick said. “This facility cannot contain these children.”
Connick said Edwards has requested a full investigation and report into this most recent escape and hopes to have more information on Monday.
Just last week, the OJJ discussed plans to move some of the facility’s most violent juvenile offenders to a wing of the Louisiana Institute for Women in Jetson. It was unclear whether such a planned transfer had ever taken place.
Less than three weeks ago, OJJ Undersecretary Bill Sommers told angry interrogators at a Jefferson Parish Council meeting: ‘We haven’t been good neighbors . We do not have. To have so many people going out, so many times, I can’t blame them at all. It’s on us.
“We have to be better. We have to understand it. We need to keep young people inside these facilities.
After the board passed a resolution asking the governor to permanently close the facility, Edwards’ office responded with a statement that read:
“Community members who live near Bridge City are understandably concerned, and we took immediate action last week to bolster security by bringing in additional personnel from the Louisiana Department of Corrections and the State Police. State of Louisiana. The current plan will remain in place for as long as necessary to maintain the safety of young people, employees and surroundings.
“We are working to ensure that there will be no further unfortunate disruptions like those we have seen in the recent past. This is a top priority for my office. We know improvements need to be made in Bridge City, and we’re working with the Bureau of Juvenile Justice and other state agencies to develop a long-term plan to address ongoing issues. This facility and other secure care facilities for our troubled youth are needed across the state, and we take the care, rehabilitation, and safety of minors, staff, and the community as a whole seriously.
Anyone with information about the escapee is asked to call local law enforcement at 911 or the command center at (504) 401-3359.
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