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DYRS ward among minivan crash victims

Corrections officer beaten by youths; contraband use hospitalizes 2 teens

- The Washington Times - Monday, January 30, 2012

One of the three people involved in Sunday's fatal police chase was a ward of the District's Department of Youth Rehabilitative Services (DYRS), officials said.

The Metropolitan Police Department identified Thaddeus Alphonso Howard, 19, and William Kurland Joseph Adams IV, 18, both of Northwest, as the two men killed when the minivan they were riding in lost control and struck a tree and then a police cruiser.

A juvenile who was riding in the vehicle remained in critical condition Monday.

A source with knowledge of the situation who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter said Adams was a ward of the city.

Officers began pursuing the minivan through a Northwest neighborhood around 3:30 a.m. Sunday, believing the occupants had fired shots at a man about 30 minutes prior.

The fatal collision capped off a weekend of dangerous incidents involving wards of the District, officials said.

At New Beginnings Youth Development Center, the District's secure facility for juveniles, officials also said that over the weekend two youths were taken to a hospital and three others were involved in the beating of a corrections officer.

A 16-year-old and a 17-year-old were taken from New Beginnings to nearby Laurel Regional Hospital after experiencing severe symptoms thought to be related to contraband smuggled in on a visitation day.

D.C. Mayor Vincent C. Gray's office would not divulge details, but said the youths tested negative for marijuana and PCP.

In a separate incident Sunday, three youths housed in a secure unit at the facility jumped and beat a corrections officer. The officer, 36-year-old Kevin Stith, was taken to a hospital and received stitches in his mouth and treated for injuries to his eye socket and elsewhere on his head.

Corrections officials, who spoke with The Washington Times on the condition of anonymity, said DYRS Director Neil A. Stanley later closed the unit where the beating occurred, resulting in a consolidated population on another unit that included youths from rival neighborhoods.

The problems at New Beginnings this past weekend had one official again questioning the oversight of the District's youth.

"Two wards and an employee in the hospital in one weekend is intolerable," D.C. Council member Jim Graham, who oversees DYRS, said of the conditions at New Beginnings. "We have to be very honest with ourselves, because this is not working, and we need to fix it."

The Times reported this month that more than 50 youths committed to DYRS custody and classified as medium-to-high risk of re-offending and placed outside New Beginnings in supervised community settings have either been killed or convicted of a homicide in the past five years.

According to an email from Mr. Graham to Mr. Stanley that was obtained by The Times, at least 14 committed youths were recently housed at DYRS' Youth Services Center despite available beds at New Beginnings.

The YSC is reserved for detained youth awaiting commitment proceedings, and labor representatives said the mixing of detained and committed youth is a violation of the consent decree resulting from the 1985 Jerry M. case that placed DYRS under a court monitor.

Meanwhile, police are still investigating Sunday's fatal crash, but said evidence was recovered at the scene that indicates the minivan was involved in a shooting.

A man had flagged down a police officer near Georgia and New Hampshire avenues in Northwest to report that someone had fired shots at him from a burgundy-colored Plymouth minivan with Virginia tags. After witnessing a van that matched the description racing through stop signs in the area, an officer gave chase.

Though declining to outline the department's chase policy, MPD spokeswoman Gwendolyn Crump said the chase appeared to be within the department's guidelines.

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