Escape of 4 juveniles angers residents


West Anne Arundel County residents were angered yesterday to learn that a teen-ager who shot six people at a District of Columbia swimming pool last year and another accused of a double murder were among four who walked away Tuesday from a minimum-security youth center near Laurel.

The four, who had been taken to Forest Haven for an educational program, were recaptured later in the day.

"They're not supposed to be in that facility," fumed Ray Smallwood, president of the Maryland City Civic Association. "It's crazy. . . . Somebody's going to get hurt."

The four were inmates at Oak Hill, the district's maximum-security prison for violent young offenders off Route 198 between Laurel and Fort Meade. They had been taken in handcuffs and shackles to Camelia Cottage at Forest Haven, which is adjacent to Oak Hill, for an "instructional program," said Madeline Andrews, a spokeswoman for the district's Department of Human Services.

Officials at the department, which runs the Oak Hill/Forest Haven complex, still are "trying to find out" how they escaped, she said.

Because the four are juveniles, district authorities would not disclose their names or the charges on which they were being held.

Other authorities confirmed, however, that one of the four shot six people at the Benning Park pool in June 1993. Another was accused of a double murder in the district in September 1993, and a third had been convicted of auto theft and attempted sodomy.

District officials have claimed for months that the only youths kept at Forest Haven, which is not fenced, are those convicted of nonviolent offenses, such as truancy, or are ready for release.

Three of the teen-agers who escaped at 12:30 p.m. Tuesday were captured by U.S. Park Police two hours later in a Hechinger store parking lot in Laurel.

The fourth was captured by Park Police about 8:30 p.m. Tuesday on the Baltimore-Washington Parkway.

Yesterday, U.S. Rep. Steny H. Hoyer, a 5th District Democrat, said District of Columbia officials had been "negligent" to take Oak Hill youths to Forest Haven. "Let the educators come in to Oak Hill," he argued.

He threatened to cut off the district's money for the program if it did not stop using nonsecure facilities, such as Forest Haven, for teen-agers charged with or convicted of violent crimes.

Meanwhile, Mr. Hoyer said, district officials have assured him they will stop housing young offenders at Camelia Cottage, where three or four youths escape each month. Up to 20 teens have been housed there as part of a prerelease program.

Mr. Smallwood said yesterday local residents are pressuring Mr. Hoyer to cut off money for the Forest Haven complex.

Mr. Hoyer sponsored legislation in 1992 to cut off funding for Cedar Knoll, the district's nearby medium-security youth detention center that closed in May 1993.

Ms. Andrews said she did not "want to speculate on" whether district officials are worried that funding for the Oak Hill/Forest Haven complex might be slashed.

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