No one at the Harris County Juvenile Probation Department had realized that three juveniles had escaped from the detention center until they found a guard lying unconscious in a cell with some of his teeth punched out. That's according to a detailed synopsis of a report on the incident given by Harris County Precinct 1, provided to the Houston Press by spokesman Alan Bernstein. The agency, which is tasked with investigating any security issues in downtown county buildings, isn't releasing the full report because the juveniles' criminal investigation is still ongoing.
Shortly after midnight on November 15, 16-year-old Alferis Coby, charged with capital murder, attacked and overpowered a guard when the guard opened Coby's cell door to give him toiletries. Coby took his keys and freed two other 16-year-olds — both charged with aggravated robbery — who then somehow descended seven floors and escaped through two locked doors entirely undetected. All three were captured by November 20.
Following the escape, two juvenile probation department employees were fired and six others were disciplined because of negligence and policy violations. Now, the Harris County Precinct 1 report summary sheds some light on the extent of the employees' errors.
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For one, the guard Coby attacked had been the only person on duty on the seventh floor, "leaving him vulnerable and without assistance," according to the synopsis. The synopsis also notes that, if other guards had been monitoring surveillance video of that floor, this whole thing could have been prevented.
Second, officers left two doors leading to probation offices unsecured, making the escape rather easy. According to the synopsis, if the doors had been locked as protocol requires, not even the keys that Coby stole from the guard would have opened them. And apparently this wasn't just a one-time accident. "Night shift staff had routinely left the doors unlocked," the synopsis says. "One Juvenile Intake employee said in an interview that keeping the doors unsecured had become 'a culture of the department.'"
Then there are the errors that belong better in movies. Memos and pieces of paper taped to an observation window are what prevented staff from seeing the juveniles crouch right on by. And a broken light prevented staff from even knowing whether the doors they escaped through were locked.
After the juveniles skulked through the probation department, they apparently caught a ride on the METRORail.