Teens made weapons, attacked corrections staff during 14-hour standoff

Six boys used furniture to barricade themselves into a room, tore some of the classroom apart to make weapons and threatened violence

By Katy Moeller
The Idaho Statesman

NAMPA, Idaho — The classroom riot started just after 9 a.m. Sept. 25.

By 10:34 p.m., the 14-hour standoff between staff and teens at the Juvenile Corrections Center in Nampa was over.

And while authorities acknowledged the riot the day after it occurred, an incident report obtained by the Idaho Statesman through a public records request provides eyewitness accounts from staff members and significant new details of the riot, which caused minor injury for one staff member.

It started after staff at the center tried to confiscate a gang-related drawing that depicted violence from the boys housed there.

Six boys, all 16 to 18, had covered a window and security camera to limit what staff could see in the room. They used furniture to barricade themselves in the room, tore some of the classroom apart to make weapons and threatened violence in profane, obscenity-laced tirades, according to the report.

A youth detention center superintendent in Nampa then grabbed a fire extinguisher and sprayed it through a window-sized hole in the classroom door at the group of teenagers who had been in revolt against their caretakers all day.

It was an intense moment near the end of a volatile day.

'The standoff was finally resolving'

It was almost 10 p.m. when staff members unscrewed and removed the classroom door window, the report says. Four defiant holdouts began shoving makeshift weapons, including a metal desk leg, through the window hole at staff. A security officer trying to see through the mist created by the discharge of the fire extinguisher was struck in the temple by a flying object -- a sharpened ruler. The fire extinguisher set off a fire alarm.

Superintendent Lynn Viner then directed most staff to leave the scene, the rehabilitation technician wrote in his account.

"Ms. Viner asked me to get her a mattress to use to cover the window if the juveniles attempted to climb through the window and harm staff," he wrote. By the time he got back with the mattress, the standoff was finally resolving. The barricade was removed at 10:34 p.m.

Security officer Nathan Squibb's injury was not serious, just a "bump on the head," according to Idaho Juvenile Corrections Department Director Sharon Harrigfeld.

Viner has managed the center for six years, and she was directing staff throughout the day-long siege. She did not request police assistance in subduing the six teens involved in this incident, Harrigfeld said.

"We would have requested assistance from Nampa Police Department if we had not been able to safely control the setting in a nonviolent manner outside the room or if the environment inside the room had become unsafe for the youth," Harrigfeld said.

How Nampa Police respond to the facility

Police are dispatched to the juvenile facility dozens of times a year -- but rarely due to dangerous situations involving the incarcerated youths, according to Nampa Police. In fact, the only time that's happened in the past two years was after 11 p.m. Oct. 9, said Capt. Curt Shankel.

In that incident from last week, police were called to help facility staff "safely secure youth who were refusing to return to their rooms," Harrigfeld said.

Shankel said last week that officers have been to the juvenile corrections center 46 times so far this year, largely to take reports, do K-9 searches and do followups. Harrigfeld said the center's records show just 15 police visits -- excluding transportation immediately after commitment -- with nearly 70 percent for interviews related to ongoing investigations. Other reasons: assisting staff in searching for contraband, serving warrants, transportation to court and assisting staff with youth.

There are now 64 juveniles incarcerated at the 84-bed Juvenile Corrections Center, 1650 11th Ave. North in Nampa. They range from 14 to 19 years old.

During the standoff, the boys issued a list of demands that included food, water, drugs and women for sex, according to the incident report.

One teen warned that he was upset about his parents getting divorced, that he had a metal desk leg and would "take attempted murder" if staff came in to confront him. His mother was brought to the scene, but he refused to talk to her.

The teens set up a tattoo station in a corner of the classroom. Numerous needles from protractors, broken chair legs and a broken air conditioner fan were found on the floor after the standoff was over.

Despite difficulties seeing into the room, staff said they were able to do "well-being checks" on the boys numerous times throughout the day, the incident report shows. Nursing staff also checked twice to see if they had any medical needs.

The incident report says that, before the standoff was resolved, night staff planned to lock themselves in a secure location -- just in case the the boys left the classroom and attempted to attack them. Viner was going to "run into intake and secure the door behind her to get away. No further instructions followed," the report said.

By 10:45 p.m., the last four holdouts voluntarily left the classroom. They came out on their knees, with their hands on the heads, according to the report. They were placed in handcuffs and then pat-searched in their rooms, most of which had been also been cleared of mattresses and bedding.

How the center follows up

In the report, one member of the security team expressed dissatisfaction with how the incident was handled.

"I was not informed of where or when a briefing would occur to discuss the lack of overall leadership skillfulness displayed during the event, which lead to a staff (member) being struck with a weapon," the report stated.

Harrigfeld said the center follows these sorts of incidents with a "thorough verbal debriefing" about how they were handled and, if necessary, "corrective action" for staff. Any such action regarding the center's employees would be a confidential personnel matter, she said.

Similar incidents have happened at the center, she said. It serves "high-risk you that may be impulsive due to age, maturity and who are stressed due to addressing their criminogenic needs."

All of the boys faced sanctions. Those included "group movement," she said, and participation in a "restorative process," which means making amends for causing any physical, mental or emotional harm to staff and parents called to the scene.

"The group will determine a way to make it right for the harm that was caused," Harrigfeld said.


(c)2018 The Idaho Statesman (Boise, Idaho)

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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