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2 Teen Inmates Sought After Escaping in Van

Crime: They were on the way to a facility for low-level offenders.

April 19, 2002|GARRETT THEROLF | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Two juvenile offenders are being sought by police for commandeering a Probation Department vehicle April 6 and escaping, officials said Thursday.

Chief Probation Officer Richard Shumsky said the 16-year-olds assaulted the driver of their van while being taken to Camp William Mendenhall in Lake Hughes near Lancaster, where low-level offenders are housed. Shumsky said the youths were in handcuffs and leg restraints when they attacked and choked the driver, who was forced out of the vehicle. The keys were left in the ignition and the youths drove away, he said.

The marked vehicle was found in Pico Rivera several days later, he said.

"This was certainly out of the ordinary," Shumsky said. "They made one very impulsive and stupid mistake. It will be dealt with in the most severe manner."

The youths' names are being withheld because of their age.

A day after the escape, one of the youths made several calls to officers at Camp William Mendenhall, promising to surrender and asking what consequences he faces. The calls came from pay phones and officials were unable to trace them, Shumsky said.

"They both now know that they are facing very serious charges," Shumsky said. "We can't tell them that nothing will happen to them."

The assault on the driver was their first violent crime, Shumsky said.

One boy was incarcerated for stealing a car; the other for driving without a license, he said.

Juvenile escapes in Los Angeles County have declined over the last three years, Shumsky said.

Last year, 47 escaped, among a total of about 4,500 juvenile offenders.

Most are considered "walkaways," inmates who slip away during activities outside their detention facility, Shumsky said.

Since the escape, juvenile inmates are transported with their hands cuffed to chains around their waists, rather than behind their backs, Shumsky said.

Shumsky said the bus driver was treated at a local hospital and released after the assault, and did not suffer any disciplinary action resulting from the escape.

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