You are using an older browser version. Please use a supported version for the best MSN experience.

Uprising at juvenile camp leads sheriff to call for changes

Associated Press logoAssociated Press 3/4/2015 By SCOTT SONNER, Associated Press
This Feb. 28, 2015 photo shows smoke rising from a fire at the Rite of Passage Silver State Academy near Yerington, Nev. Authorities are investigating a riot at a juvenile rehabilitation camp in northern Nevada where two buildings were set on fire, four staff members hurt and 10 youths briefly escaped before they were recaptured over the weekend. © AP Photo/Mason Valley News, Keith Trout This Feb. 28, 2015 photo shows smoke rising from a fire at the Rite of Passage Silver State Academy near Yerington, Nev. Authorities are investigating a riot at a juvenile rehabilitation camp in northern Nevada where two buildings were set on fire, four staff members hurt and 10 youths briefly escaped before they were recaptured over the weekend.

RENO, Nev. — School officials insist that everything is back to normal after a riot at a juvenile rehabilitation center in rural western Nevada. But the local sheriff says the neighboring town is on edge and "at its wits' end" following the latest in a series of violent outbursts by the teenagers.

Two buildings at the youth camp on the edge of Yerington were set on fire, four staff members were hurt and 10 of the youths were on the run over the weekend after escaping the facility that doesn't have a fence to lock in its troubled population.

Lyon County Sheriff Al McNeil said he is worried it could be worse, that someone might get killed. He's pressing officials at the Rite of Passage Silver State Academy to make changes so it doesn't happen again.

"I've had public safety concerns over the years because there is no fencing to keep them on the property," McNeil told The Associated Press. "They break into my citizens' homes and steal keys and steal cars. My community is at its wits' end right now."

"This is rural Nevada, and every home has a gun. My biggest concern is one of these kids will go into a house at 2 a.m., and there will be a farmer or a rancher there — and we'll have a fatal shooting. In Nevada, that would be a justifiable homicide, but nobody wants to see that," he added.

No one was seriously injured, but one staff member had to be treated at a local hospital after Saturday night's incident, McNeil said Tuesday.

The state fire marshal is investigating the arsons, and Yerington Tribal Police are probing the cause of the riot — the fourth uprising in four months at the school for at-risk teens, McNeil said. The camp is on tribal land about 8 miles north of Yerington and 70 miles southeast of Reno.

McNeil said several youths "made a bunch of improvised weapons," but he had no further details about the incident or nature of the minor injuries. "You break a table leg, and then you have a club," McNeil said.

Six of the escapees were captured shortly after the riot that broke out about 8 p.m. Saturday, and the other four the next morning, he said. One building housing the laundry and another with a maintenance shop suffered an undetermined amount of fire damage.

The academy is a nonprofit, licensed and accredited charter school operated by the Rite of Passage Adolescent Treatment Centers and Schools, which is based in Minden, Nevada, and sponsored by California's El Dorado County Office of Education.

Rick Wright, corporate human resources director for Rite of Passage, said he couldn't comment on details or the status of the youths who were involved because of confidentiality requirements regarding juveniles.

"We had an unpredictable situation," Wright told the AP. "We are studying the events of what happened so we can prevent them in the future."

"We were well staffed up, but we've upped the staffing as a preventative measure," he said Tuesday afternoon from Minden, which is about 40 miles south of Reno. "Operations have gone back to normal. Everything was back to normal by Sunday."

The school is required to have one staff member on site for every eight youths, "and we were well in excess of that — approximately 3-to-1," Wright said. He estimated that there were about 25 youths at the school at the time.

He said he couldn't comment on what sparked the uprising. "I'm not at liberty to say. It's still under investigation," Wright said.

Officials for the El Dorado County Office of Education in Placerville, California, did not immediately return a telephone call seeking comment.

John Dibble, chairman of the school's advisory board, said school officials are considering changes to improve safety at the facility that opened in 1987. "I'm devastated that once again we were a threat to the community, and that's not something we enjoy being," he told KOLO-TV in Reno.

McNeil said this isn't the first time there has been trouble at the camp. There were three less serious riots during a two-day period at the school in December, he said.

The school's website said it provides counseling, educational, vocational and athletic programs for boys ages 14 to 17 "with a troubled past." The majority are sent there on court orders as an alternative to prison.

"We are disappointed with the actions of a few of our students, and those responsible will be held accountable," the school said in a statement on its website. "We are still positive that our program benefits disadvantaged youth and will be evaluating future admissions."

Most of the youths are sent there from neighboring California, McNeil said.

Yerington Tribal Police did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment.

This Feb. 28, 2015 photo shows smoke rising from a fire at the Rite of Passage Silver State Academy near Yerington, Nev. Authorities are investigating a riot at a juvenile rehabilitation camp in northern Nevada where two buildings were set on fire, four staff members hurt and 10 youths briefly escaped before they were recaptured over the weekend. © AP Photo/Mason Valley News, Keith Trout This Feb. 28, 2015 photo shows smoke rising from a fire at the Rite of Passage Silver State Academy near Yerington, Nev. Authorities are investigating a riot at a juvenile rehabilitation camp in northern Nevada where two buildings were set on fire, four staff members hurt and 10 youths briefly escaped before they were recaptured over the weekend.
AdChoices
AdChoices
image beaconimage beaconimage beacon