This month, conditions appear to be going from bad to worse at Los Padrinos Juvenile Hall.
LP—as the Downey-located youth facility is known for short—is where, in July of this year, LA County Probation moved approximately 300 young people who are in probation’s care, in order to get those youth out of the county’s other two highly troubled youth facilities, Central Juvenile Hall, and Barry J. Nidorf Juvenile Hall.
On Monday and Tuesday of this week (November 13 and 14), multiple fights broke out at LP.
One of the fights that erupted on Monday began in an outdoor grassy area when a kid found some dog poop on the ground, picked it up and threw it at another kid. Things reportedly blew up from there.
(We are told that the poop in the facility’s yard may have been the product of one or more of the working dogs that have been brought in to do drug searches. Either that, it was an artifact of ne of the dogs that volunteers occasionally bring to interact with the kids. Whatever the case, a fight resulted.
On Tuesday, there were reportedly more brawls.
Yet, while Monday’s and Tuesday’s fights were not terribly serious, according to staff sources, they appeared be symptoms of other, larger problems that had recently been showing themselves at the youth hall.
At the beginning of the month, for example, there were two incidents at Los Padrinos, in which multiple staff members were injured, and one underage youth attempted an escape, the second such attempted escape from Los Padrinos in recent months.
Here’s the deal:
On Friday, November 3, WitnessLA got the first of an ongoing series of text messages from staff sources letting us know that things were going wrong at LP.
Late on Friday, we were able to confirm that a young and not very experienced Detention Service Officer (DSO) had been attacked by a group of at least three young people. We don’t know anything about the attack’s cause, other than it occurred when a group of youth were being moved from their unit to a classroom elsewhere in the facility.
The young DSO who was on the receiving end of the attack had reportedly been on the job for less than a month. Matters were made more dangerous by the fact that there were no other staff members nearby to provide back-up when the inexperienced officer was jumped.
As the new staff member struggled, outnumbered, to head off the attack, a female teacher reportedly helped pull the kids off the officer, whose clothing was streaked with blood, although he was reportedly not stabbed or cut.
Those familiar with the situation said that the DSO was traumatized by the attack, and the lack of back-up. The teacher who acted quickly to defend him was also reportedly traumatized.
Matters were reportedly not help when, immediately after the incident, the battered young officer was put in a nearby room with an Industrial Accident packet to fill out.** While filling out the packet was evidently a necessary task to complete in order for the DSO to get his workers comp claim going, it was not clear that being shoved precipitously post-beatdown into a room alone was either necessary or wise. It was also unclear if any sort of crisis counseling was offered—official or otherwise.
“I hope he sues the county, “ said one of our probation sources, who was familiar with the details of the incident.
That was Friday, Nov. 4, at Los Padrinos.
On Saturday, Nov. 5, at 7:53 pm, six youth in residence at LP assaulted several staff members.
The Saturday assault turned out to be part of a plan to distract staff members so that that one of the kids in the unit could escape the facility.
The kid, whose name we are withholding because he’s under 18 years old, was reportedly a “low level offender.” But, for whatever reason, he was determined to get out of youth lock-up.
With the distraction of the attacks on staff members, the fleeing kid was able to briefly escape LP, where near the facility’s perimeter, an older “female accomplice,” was reportedly waiting in her car to pick him up.
Yet, before the escapee and accomplice could vanish, they were arrested. According to the official statement on the incident, Probation’s Special Enforcement Operations officers, together with the South Gate and Downey Police Department, apprehended escapee and driver both
While probation investigated the actions of the six youth involved in the escape incident, the approximately 294 other kids and young adults living at LP had their visiting hours canceled, and were placed on a lengthy “lock-down,” meaning they also had no activities, classes, or anything else to fill their time, nevermind that the majority reportedly had exactly zero part in the incident.
This facility-wide cancellation of visiting and any kind of activities was a plan that some of the probation staff we spoke to did not consider wise, as it needlessly punished the youth who had stayed out of trouble.
The above incidents at LP, all occurred in November.
But, as we reported earlier, this month’s incidents at Los Padrinos were preceded last month by two serious drug overdoses.
On October 18, a kid in residence at LP overdosed on fentanyl.
The young man didn’t overdose on the synthetic opioid at Los Padrinos. Instead, he took the drug while he was in a holding tank for a local court, waiting to go before a judge.
Fortunately, an LA County Sheriff’s deputy who was observing the young man from outside the holding room, saw the kid’s distress and was able to administer three-doses of Narcan to stabilize the youth to the point that he could safely be transported to a hospital.
It wasn’t the first time the young man took a potentially deadly dose of fentanyl. He also overdosed approximately three weeks prior to the court-located overdose, and again was saved by a probation staff member and Naloxone, the generic name for the life-saving medication that can reverse an overdose from opioids.
Meanwhile, at Barry J Nidorf Juvenile Hall, during the same general late October/early November time frame at the Sylmar-located facility, narcotics continued to arrive.
Some continue to enter the property in creative ways, including via a football, which was thrown over the fence of the the Secure Youth Track Facility (SYTF), which houses the 40 or so young people who, in previous years, would have been placed in the state’s chronically troubled Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ).
It’s not clear how the narcotics are getting into LP.
So why are the county’s youth halls still so out of control, even after, the state oversight commission, The California Board of State and Community Corrections, or BSCC, told the county that they had to get their act together.
20 percent of staff & the missing investigative team
Part of the cause of the problems at Los Padrinos still pertains to the fact that the youth hall is still reportedly running on only 20 percent of the staff it needs to function. The other 80 percent are either out on worker’s comp, or calling in sick.
Another potential cause is the fact that, early last month, three of probation’s in-house investigators were removed from duty and sent home on an “ordered absence.” for reasons that are still unclear.
This was the team who appear to have made dramatic and measurable progress in locating the sources of the fentanyl that had been showing up in significant amounts since the beginning of the year in Barry J Nidorf Juvenile Hall—and later at Los Padrinos.
Just prior to their removal from duty, the team reported that they’d learned from one of the prolific youth dealers inside Barry J. Nidorf that, for two years, he’d been getting his drugs from a staff member, and a teacher both of whom reportedly still work at Barry J.
To date, the team has yet to be returned to duty. But they now have an attorney and have become whistleblowers.
(For more on the whistleblower’s case, see WLA’s story here.)
In the meantime, the job of getting drugs out of LA County Probation’s youth facilities has fallen to newly-appointed Chief Safety and Security Officer, Eric Strong, of the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department.
(As readers may remember, Lt. Strong was among those who ran for LA County Sheriff against former sheriff Alex Villanueva in June 2022.)
On November 9, at last week’s Probation Oversight Commission meeting, Strong gave a lengthy presentation in which he described the people outside probation he wishes to hire, in order to stop the inflow of drugs to the two youth halls, with the accompanying overdoses, one of which, last spring, ended a young man’s life.
Strong told the commission that his boss, probation chief Guillermo Viera Rosa, told Strong he wanted a team that would partner with members of law enforcement agencies, who would have the expertise and technology to “track down the sources of the drugs and hold them accountable.”
As luck would have it, based on WLA’s probation sources, and online exchanges we’ve reviewed, most of the tasks Strong named in his 23-minute plus presentation to the POC, seem to match what the department’s investigative team of Supervising Deputy Probation Officers were already doing.
At least, that’s what the team of SDPO Torres, SDPO Corona, SDPO Sakoda, and those who worked with them, appear to have been doing before its main members were placed on administrative leave on Oct 4, after a “debrief” with newly named Deputy Director of Internal Affairs, Luis Dominguez, plus newly named Chief Safety and Security Officer for LA County Probation, Eric Strong.
More as we know it. So…stay tuned.
**Correction 6:08 p.m., 11/15/23: WLA wrongly assumed that the “IA” packet that the young DSO was asked to fill out—when he was still shaken by being attacked—stood for Internal Affairs. We learned from a smart commenter that, in this instance, IA referred to an “Industrial Accident” packet, which is the paperwork needed to start a workers comp claim. Thank you again, “Former DSO.”