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D.C. youth agency transfers teen who sought to report ‘terrible things’

Mother considering legal action

- The Washington Times - Monday, November 5, 2012

Ebony McCombs expected to see her son one last time before he was transferred from the District's youth rehabilitation agency. But when he asked to speak with police about things Perry C. White had told him, all that changed.

"My son's caseworker says he was transferred out of state because he shared information with her about what Perry told him," Mrs. McCombs said in an interview.

Mr. White, 18, also a ward at the Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services, recently told DYRS staff and others that he shot the agency's veteran administrator, Jeffrey Earl McInnis, in March 2011, citing "terrible things" done to him as his motive, according to internal DYRS documents. Mr. White's claim prompted a report to the Child Family Services Agency, which union officials said usually results in staff being placed on administrative leave pending investigation.

Now, the District's handling of the matter has angered the mother of a child who says her family's rights have been violated because her son tried to report to authorities what Mr. White told him about the March 2011 incident.

"I've known Perry a long time; he and my son are close," said Mrs. McCombs. "Perry told my son details about what happened. I can't believe a child would make up such a story."

DYRS had been in the process of transferring her son, who is 17 and charged with second-degree murder, out of state, Mrs. McCombs said, but he wasn't supposed to leave for another two weeks. She said a judge told her she would be afforded "special visitation" rights before he was transferred.

She did not get her visit, and said her son's caseworker was not informed of the sudden transfer last month until after he was on his way to a facility in Detroit.

Mrs. McCombs has hired an attorney and is considering legal action, she said.

The transfer of Mrs. McCombs' son is just one of the irregularities in the way D.C. officials have responded to the McInnis shooting -- and claims by Mr. White that he was the gunman.

Mr. McInnis was a highly regarded superintendent of DYRS' 88-bed secure facility for youths accused of crimes. Last year, The Washington Times reported that he was shot in the early hours of March 20, 2011. DYRS Director Neil Stanley failed to report the incident to employees until he was questioned by a reporter nine days later.

Restraining order

A short time later, The Times reported on a restraining order obtained in 2010 by Mr. McInnis' wife, who alleged violent threats by him. Phyllis McInnis recanted her allegations after a news story was in progress, and she sought to rescind the court order. She declined to comment, and Mr. McInnis did not return calls for comment.

Soon thereafter, Mr. McInnis was shifted from "chief of detained services" to a "transportation and facilities" position at a 60-bed secure DYRS facility for committed youths in Laurel, but agency sources indicated that he did not receive a salary cut. DYRS officials refused to explain the move or answer questions for this article.

While questions about Mr. McInnis linger, other city officials are struggling to explain a dubious chain of events.

For instance, the call to the Child Family Services Agency that followed Mr. White's claim prompted Metropolitan Police Department Cmdr. George Kucik of the Criminal Investigations Division to contact the caller, DYRS documents state. Cmdr. Kucik suggested that a former DYRS police-liaison who is now a community outreach specialist investigate the matter. The caller objected, the documents state, because the liaison had been involved with Mr. White as a DYRS ward.

Cmdr. Kucik did not deny making the call but said, "Your facts are not totally correct." He declined to elaborate.

Mr. White's case notes show him in distress before the McInnis shooting. On March 3, 2011, he was accused of "Sexual Misconduct Major," the notes state -- a charge that was emailed to Mr. McInnis. Mr. White also had "multiple physical altercations" and a disciplinary hearing, after which he fled a group home on March 16, 2011.

Four days later, Mr. McInnis was shot. A couple of weeks after that, Mr. White was taken back into custody.

Mr. White's sister and aunt, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said he takes medication for a psychiatric disorder that they did not identify and doubt what he is now telling authorities. But sources at DYRS say Mr. White consistently has maintained his claim since last year, when he first reported it to guards at the D.C. Jail -- a claim that did not result in a report to the Child Family Services Agency until he recently repeated it to DYRS employees.

The employees have openly discussed a similar version of events since shortly after the shooting.

Other inquiries raise questions about the Metropolitan Police Department's handling of the matter. The Times received a call last week from a police detective following up on information he received suggesting that Mr. McInnis had been out with other DYRS employees, including Mr. Stanley, on the night he was shot.

'Began to shoot'

According to a police report, Mr. McInnis was at a Shell station in Northeast at 4 a.m. when a young black male approached the driver's side of his car "and began to shoot." Mr. McInnis escaped, drove to a different Shell station and asked the clerk to call police, the report states. He then got into his car and drove behind the gas station to wait.

The report does not say whether Mr. McInnis was accompanied by anyone or if there were any witnesses to the shooting.

Mrs. McCombs said Mr. White told her son that Mr. McInnis had been out the night of the shooting with Mr. Stanley and Walter Crawford, then a DYRS management liaison.

But photos and an entry log from the New York City Half-Marathon suggest that Mr. Stanley was in or on his way to New York on the night of the shooting. Mr. Crawford, now with the Office of the State Superintendent of Education, denied ever associating with Mr. McInnis or Mr. Stanley outside of work. He confirmed that a Metropolitan Police Department detective contacted him last week.

"I don't know who has put my name in this mess," he said. "I don't know anything about this nonsense."

John De Taeye, special assistant to D.C. Council member Jim Graham, Ward 1 Democrat and chairman of the Committee on Human Services, which has oversight of DYRS, denied any knowledge of the recent revelations, despite receiving a report from the same DYRS employee who reported the matter to the Child Family Services Agency.

"You know more than I do," Mr. De Taeye said.

The office of Mayor Vincent C. Gray, which has stood by Mr. Stanley in the face of persistent complaints and concerns from DYRS employees, did not respond to requests for comment.

As Mr. White's claim surfaced last week, DYRS employees questioned whether authorities have reviewed credit card or cellphone records to determine where Mr. McInnis was the night he was shot and who may have been with him.

Dwight Bowman, national vice president of the American Federation of Government Employees, said the union is asking Mr. Gray and Mr. Graham for a thorough investigation of the incident, which he described as "disturbing."

"We are proud of the staff for reporting this to the necessary authorities. It is common practice to place employees on administrative leave when youth, parents or co-workers make allegations of misconduct," he said. "We stand by our members, and we will follow up to see where this stands."

Mrs. McCombs is not optimistic that best practices are being followed. "Everything is backwards with DYRS in the four years my son has been involved with them," she said. "They never do what they're supposed to do."

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