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Victor Cullen detainees attacked employees

June 03, 2009|By HEATHER KEELS

SABILLASVILLE, Md. -- Staff members at Victor Cullen Center in northern Frederick County, Md., were attacked with screwdrivers, wooden chairs and staple guns last week while the juvenile detention center was temporarily overtaken by its detainees, an assistant public defender told a judge Wednesday.

A Department of Juvenile Services spokeswoman said injuries to staff during the May 27 incident were minor, but Washington County Assistant Public Defender Loren Villa said in court Wednesday that five or six of the facility's staff members were taken to the hospital and many needed time off from work.

Villa was representing a boy being held at the center on a Washington County sentence who she said feared for his safety after the incident and sought to be taken out of the facility. Washington County Circuit Judge Donald E. Beachley, sitting in juvenile court, denied the request.

Villa said the incident began when one youth attacked a staff member with a wooden chair. As that situation escalated and the youth continued to beat staff with the chair, a staff member pressed a buzzer, which released the rest of the residents, and a "melee" began, Villa told Beachley.

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"The youth basically overtook the Victor Cullen Center," Villa said.

During that brawl, staff members were shanked with a screwdriver, and youths put staple guns to the heads of staff members and pulled the triggers, she said.

Department of Juvenile Services spokeswoman Tammy M. Brown said by telephone Wednesday she had not heard of attacks with staple guns or screwdrivers.

Brown said the cottages where the youths are housed are not locked and that youths ran from the cottages, broke the window of a vocational trade center and broke into a cabinet inside where tools were kept. Some of the youths used tools from the cabinet to break through a fence, Brown said.

Fourteen youths left their cottages during the incident, Brown said. She said 10 quickly were found in a maintenance building on the center's grounds and another four were found within an hour, walking along railroad tracks about a quarter-mile from the facility.

All 14 have been transferred to other facilities in the state, Brown said.

Villa said six youths who were transferred from Savage Mountain Youth Center in Lonaconing, Md., organized the escape. She said those six also were involved in an escape from that facility.

Villa told Beachley youths at the center contacted police.

She said the Frederick County Sheriff's Department and the Maryland Attorney General's Office were investigating the incident.

Brown said the center has repaired the fence and will store the vocational center tools off-site. The juvenile services department has assigned additional staff from the western region to assist at Victor Cullen Center, Brown said.

Brown said the department will hold a community meeting Monday at 6 p.m. at the center for community members and anyone else concerned about the incident.

The Victor Cullen Center, which is owned and operated by the state, is a secure-treatment facility for male juvenile offenders north of Sabillasville, Md. It is designed to accommodate 48 youths in four cottages.

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