On Monday night, April 10, at around 10:30 p.m. four of the kids in the Q unit of Los Angeles County Probation’s Barry J. Nidorf Juvenile Hall didn’t want to go into their rooms and go to bed.
When they made no progress with the four boys who had planted themselves in the dayroom, Detention Service Officers (DSOs) in the unit called Supervising Detention Service Officer Paul Ordonez, and a second Supervising DSO named Kenneth Moffett who both reportedly arrived quickly.
It had already been a stressful night. According to our sources, at least one of the DSOs, a woman, had been on duty for 24 hours straight, a kind of exhaustion-producing schedule that multiple sources tell us is not uncommon, despite what the county continues to tell the state oversight commission.
“I know people who are kept on for 32 hours,” one source told us yesterday. “Meanwhile, the DSOs keep calling out because they can.”
In any case, back in Unit Q, Ordonez began talking to the four kids hoping to get them to head to their rooms.
One of the four, a 17-year-old kid whom we will call Joseph—although that is not his name—got up from a mattress in the dayroom, and walked toward a nearby hallway, presumably to get some water.
Yet, as Joseph walked past one staff member, all at once he turned and reportedly began to run in the direction of Ordonez, who was standing by the dayroom door.
What no one saw until it was too late was the fact that Joseph, who is a smallish kid, had a shank in his hand, which really looked more like a homemade putty knife. (See photo above.)
But it was sharp.
In seconds, he managed to use the shank to slice SDSO Ordonez in the face and across the throat.
According to a text sent to colleagues by one of the witnesses to the stabbing, the amount of blood caused by the wounds to Ordonez’ face and throat was terrifying, causing the colleague/witness to fear the wounds were fatal.
Fortunately, they were not.
Within a few additional seconds, supervisor Moffett managed to wrestle the shank away from the kid, as others led the disoriented Ordonez to the medical unit, from which he was transported to a nearby hospital.
After treatment, he was eventually sent home, where worried friends were relieved to able to reach the injured Ordonez the following morning.
Sometime reportedly in the course of Moffett getting the shank away from Joseph, it appears that Joseph’s arm was fractured.
But that was not the troubling part since SDSO Moffett’s first priority had to be to get the weapon safely away from the kid.
What was troubling, however, was that, according to two of our sources, Joseph was not transported to the hospital to have his arm examined until approximately 8:00 pm the evening of April 11.
This means that probation didn’t manage to get the teenager driving to the hospital until at least 20 hours after the Monday night incident.
When Joseph finally saw a doctor around midnight, Tuesday night, the physician determined that the kid’s right humerus was fractured and he would need to see an orthopedic surgeon.
Who is the kid who did the stabbing?
So, who is Joseph? For one thing, SDSO Ordonez is not the first person he has attacked and injured with a shank.
He was the kid we wrote about who stabbed another kid in unit Y in February.
The incident was frightening for obvious reasons, but also because there were strong indications that, if Joseph, who had been in a two person cell and doing at reasonably okay, was put back in unit Y, he was likely to hurt a particular other kid who was already in the unit,
(Unit Y is one of the SYTF units that contain the kids who, in previous years, would have gone to one of California’s youth prisons, which are now in the process of being emptied.)
Line staff reportedly warned against putting Joseph in unit Y. But supervisors or others above them, decided he should be put in unit Y anyway. The reported excuse was that Barry J didn’t have enough staff to keep him in the two person room.
And, sure enough, once back in Y, Joseph stabbed the kid, who was not killed, reportedly, because someone attempted to intervene and jostled Joseph’s arm away from its mark.
When Joseph first came into the county system he was 15, and his offense was reportedly nonviolent. Back then, according to sources familiar with his case, he was mostly a kid who had been through a lot of trauma.
When he was four years old his father went to prison for life. Around three years later his grandmother, with whom he was close, died unexpectedly.
Two years later still, when he was nine-years-old, his mother went to prison. His great grandfather, who was a stabilizing figure in his life, died in June of 2020.
His mother got out in July 2020, but he was already in trouble by then.
Yet, it wasn’t serious trouble, so Joseph was sent to a couple of non-secure facilities, from which he ran away and headed home several times, wanting to hang out with his mother, who explained he had to go back.
Eventually he was transferred to Campus Kilpatrick where he reportedly did well, until he got into a fight with a staff member, and was transferred eventually to Barry J. Nidorf.
There, according to various sources, the small, insecure teenager got beat up badly, and began doing poorly in school, despite the fact that certain staff members, members of the county’s department of mental health, his attorney, and his mother reportedly did all they could to advocate for him, and to persuade him to to hang in.
Predictably, the scared skinny kid began to fall under the influence of older boys.
It didn’t help that, because of staffing shortages, his attorney, Bess Stiffelman, was for long periods of time prevented from having court ordered calls or visits with her client, which added to his isolation.
Earlier, there was talk about sending Joseph to Dorothy Kirby Center, a locked probation facility where the emphasis is on mental health treatment, and related programs. But somehow the court never made that happen.
So, he stayed at Barry J Nidorf in circumstances that have reportedly became more and more poisonous for him—and now, without some kind of change, are clearly dangerous for others.
No safe place, say the BSCC staff, & the CA Attorney General
Meanwhile, in other news, the BSCC—which is the state oversight commission with jurisdiction over county lock-ups such as juvenile halls and adult jails—will decide on Thursday, April 13, whether to give LA County an extra month to show whether or not they can hit the legal marks needed for the BSCC to consider Barry J. Nidorf Juvenile Hall and Central Juvenile Hall to be safe enough places to continue to have young people in residence.
But that’s not all.
Today, Wednesday, California Attorney General Rob Bonta announced that the California Department of Justice (DOJ) has filed a motion to enforce that givesLos Angeles County 120 days to “remedy illegal and unsafe conditions of confinement at its two juvenile halls.”
Specifically the county needs to do the following:
- Provide timely transport of youth from their units in the juvenile halls to school daily;
- Deliver compensatory education services to youth who are entitled to those services;
- Ensure that youth have access to daily outdoor recreation;
- Accurately document and review all use-of-force incidents in a timely fashion, following procedures outlined in the judgment;
- Install video cameras throughout Barry J. Nidorf juvenile hall;
- Implement a positive behavior management plan.
“The Department of Justice,” wrote Bonta, “hopes that Los Angeles County will act with urgency to come into full compliance before it becomes necessary for the court to take action.”
It doesn’t seem like all that much to ask.