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Lockdown Lifted at Southern California Juvenile Hall After Brawl, Escape

Lockdown Lifted at Southern California Juvenile Hall After Brawl, Escape

The County of Orange Probation Department in Orange, Calif., on Jan. 25, 2023. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

City News Service

City News Service

7/30/2023

Updated: 7/30/2023

DOWNEY, Calif.—The lockdown was lifted July 29 evening at Los Padrinos Juvenile Hall in Downey amidst additional security measures initiated by Los Angeles County probation officials the day after a major disturbance at the facility involving 13 youths.
Lifting the lockdown will enable limited movement of youth for meals, schooling, and recreational activities at the pre-disposition youth facility, Interim Probation Chief Guillermo Viera Rosa said.
Visiting hours were cancelled Saturday and probation staff notified most family and caregivers in advance, he said. Those who showed up at the facility were allowed to call their loved ones from the Los Padrinos reception area.
Mr. Viera Rosa noted he plans to ask the County to speed up the hiring of Safety and Security specialists, a new job classification that will allow the Probation Department to hire off-duty or retired peace officers for external security purposes.
“The safe operations of Los Padrinos ultimately comes down to having the appropriate level of officers and staff on every shift, day in and day out,” Mr. Viera Rosa said. “This new classification will help us reach that level by using trained and experienced peace officers in support of our probation staff. This will allow us to increase our overall staffing so that we can provide the programming that our youth deserve.”
Los Padrinos Juvenile Hall in Downey, Calif., in a screenshot image. (Google Maps/Screenshot via The Epoch Times)

Los Padrinos Juvenile Hall in Downey, Calif., in a screenshot image. (Google Maps/Screenshot via The Epoch Times)

A juvenile inmate at the facility briefly escaped during a late Friday brawl with detention staff members that prompted a large police response.
The youth “was immediately apprehended by officers from the Probation Department’s Special Enforcement Operations unit. Since he is 18 years old, the department has asked the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department to book him as an adult,” county officials said Saturday.
The remaining 12 youths were placed in individual rooms at Los Padrinos under one-on-one supervision. No serious injuries to youth or staff were reported during the incident, and a subsequent headcount found all 273 youth at the facility present and accounted for, according to the Probation Department, which runs the facility.
Mr. Viera Rosa ordered that beginning immediately, a department bureau chief—among the highest-ranking officers in the department—be present to supervise operations during every shift at Los Padrinos.
He has also ordered that OC spray be temporarily issued to all permanent staff until the facility is fully stabilized, a decision he will revisit in a few days.
“Any time you move a large number of youths, especially to a new facility as we have in the last week or two, there is a potential for problems and we plan for those,” Mr. Viera Rosa said. “But Friday night’s disturbance was an emergency that required an immediate and strong response. I’m thankful that no youth were seriously hurt, and with the help of other law enforcement agencies, we were able to reestablish order.”
Police tape blocks off the crime scene in a file photo. (Andri Tambunan/AFP via Getty Images)

Police tape blocks off the crime scene in a file photo. (Andri Tambunan/AFP via Getty Images)

Mr. Viera Rosa said the incident began around 8 p.m., when seven youths assaulted staff and broke open an exterior door of their living unit. They allegedly broke the window of a second unit, allowing six others to join them on the facility grounds. The oldest youth climbed a wall and escaped onto an adjacent golf course, where he was immediately apprehended, officials said.
Officers from the Downey Police Department, Downey Fire Department, South Gate Police Department, and deputies from the Los Angeles County Sheriff Department’s Lakewood station responded to the juvenile hall Friday night.
Mr. Viera Rosa also asked Michael Minor, a private security consultant and former director of the California Department of Correction and Rehabilitation’s Division of Juvenile Justice, to work with staff members as they stabilize operations.
“I want to thank the law enforcement officers who responded and got this situation under control quickly,” County Supervisor Janice Hahn said in a statement issued Saturday. “It is my understanding that all the youth have been accounted for. We need to understand exactly what happened last night at Los Padrinos. I expect our interim Chief Probation Officer to get to the bottom of what went wrong and make assurances to the Board of Supervisors and the city of Downey that this is not going to happen again.”
Los Padrinos Juvenile Hall reopened this month with 274 pre-disposition youths previously housed at Barry J. Nidorf Juvenile Hall in Sylmar and Central Juvenile Hall in Boyle Heights transferred to the 26-acre campus in Downey.
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