Five teenagers, serving sentences for various felonies, attacked several staff members at Echo Glen Children’s Center near Snoqualmie on Wednesday morning and escaped the state-run juvenile rehabilitation facility in a motor-pool car, according to the King County Sheriff’s Office.
The teens are all males between the ages of 14 and 17 — and two of them have escaped before, said sheriff’s spokesperson Sgt. Tim Meyer. One of the boys was convicted of murder, while others were convicted of crimes including possession of stolen property and robbery, he said.
An Echo Glen employee, who asked to remain unidentified because the person was not authorized to talk about the matter and feared being fired, identified one of the escapees as the Burien boy, now 15, who shot and killed a stranger two years ago. He was convicted of first-degree murder and second-degree unlawful possession of a firearm, and was sentenced in August to secure custody until his 21st birthday, according to King County prosecutors.
The Seattle Times typically does not name juveniles accused or convicted of crimes unless they are prosecuted in adult court.
Meyer didn’t provide details of the escape but said the staff members were assaulted around 7:45 a.m., suffering minor injuries.
The Echo Glen employee said that following the escape the entire campus was put into lockdown, and employees were eventually briefed by supervisors about what happened.
All five of the escaped teens were being held in the Klickitat Cottage, the only maximum security house for males at Echo Glen. That cottage, which is separated from other housing, is locked from the outside, the employee said.
The teens first overpowered two staff members inside the cottage, the employee said, recounting what supervisors told staff members about the incident. Then, when a nurse drove to the cottage to give daily medication to some of the detainees, “they put him in a hold from behind,” the employee said.
Employees were told the teens took the nurse’s keys and wallet, and also found a knife left by a staff member inside a drawer in the cottage, the employee said.
“They had access to the nurse’s car straight out the front door,” the employee said. “Then they just drove out the front road. There’s no gate, so there’s nothing to stop you from driving in or out.”
The front gate was broken about a year ago when a visitor who apparently was “high on drugs smashed into it” and has not been replaced, the employee said.
Four of the teens were in street clothes, while a fifth was in an orange jumpsuit used to designate a teen who is new to the facility or had recently acted out violently, the employee said. The teen in the jumpsuit was wearing street clothes underneath, the employee said.
Meyer identified the stolen car as a 2018 Ford Fusion that’s part of the state motor pool.
Warrants for escape and other charges are being issued for the arrest of the five juveniles, he said.
“Certainly we want to get these guys in custody,” he said.
A spokesperson for the Washington Department of Children, Youth and Families, which oversees Echo Glen, said in a statement Wednesday afternoon that all other teens have been accounted for and the campus is now secure.
“We are assembling a critical incident team to address risk immediately and determine the root causes. We are also working closely with our law enforcement partners during this investigation,” added Jason Wettstein, the spokesperson.
Wettstein later confirmed in an email that the front gate to the facility was damaged in April and was supposed to be repaired last year.
Patrol deputies and members of the sheriff’s Major Crimes Unit responded to Echo Glen School, in the 33000 block of Southeast 99th Street, and have alerted other area law enforcement agencies to be on the lookout for the teens, Meyer said.
Echo Glen Children’s Center is an medium/maximum security facility bordered by natural wetlands and is run by the state Juvenile Rehabilitation Administration under DCYF. It houses younger male offenders and is the only juvenile facility for female offenders. Older male offenders typically serve their sentences at Green Hill School in Chehalis.
In 2012, six teenagers escaped from Echo Glen after knocking a corrections officer unconscious and then dragging and locking her into a holding cell, according to news accounts at the time. The teens stole the officer’s keys and radio and ran into thick woods surrounding the property. All six were captured within a few hours.