Two teenage sex offenders allegedly involved in gangs have been recaptured following their escape from Golden's Lookout Mountain Youth Services Center, the site of a riot during which four inmates and ten staff members were injured only days earlier.
Javier Madera, nineteen, and Emilio Dominguez, seventeen, were at large for well over 24 hours. But the Golden Police Department reports that the scenario changed at around 3:25 p.m. today, May 7, when members of a fugitive unit associated with the Denver Police Department and the Rocky Mountain Safe Streets Task Force learned that the pair were in a vehicle near the intersection of Sixth Avenue and Simms Street in Lakewood.
The officers tailed Madera and Dominguez into Golden as they drove up Lookout Mountain Road, the GPD account continues. Shortly after the pair turned around, they were intercepted by Golden cops riding in unmarked cars. A pursuit followed, but it came to a speedy conclusion when the suspects' vehicle crashed in the vicinity of Interstate 70 and U.S. 40. Madera and Dominguez subsequently exited the ride and attempted to flee on foot, but they were grabbed by officers. Neither suffered any injuries.
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A juvenile female was also with the pair. She was "taken into protective custody while investigators determine her involvement," the GPD states. In the meantime, Madera was transported to Jefferson County jail on suspicion of criminal mischief and escape. Dominguez is expected to be booked into the Mount View Youth Services Center on charges anticipated to include reckless driving and felony eluding in addition to criminal mischief and escape.
This sequence of events took place shortly after the Colorado Department of Human Services issued promises of policy changes intended to improve safety and security at Lookout Mountain, a facility with a long history of problems.
The State of Colorado's LMYSC web page describes the facility as "an intensive secure treatment program for 140 male juvenile offenders" that "provides for the care and supervision of youth committed by the District Court to the custody of the CDHS Division of Youth Services (DYS). Lookout Mountain is designed to meet the needs of DYS’s highest risk youth and accepts referrals from all four of the Division’s management regions."
The program uses "cognitive behavioral and social learning modalities" designed to provide "an environment where therapeutic and strength-based relationships may develop. Services consist of academic and career technology programming, recreation, medical and dental. Spiritual life and pastoral care are provided by Youth for Christ and Straight Ahead Colorado. Treatment services are provided for substance abuse, family, mental health and offense specific treatment needs."
These ideals aren't always achieved. Back in 2010, Westword reporter Melanie Asmar shared a U.S. Justice Department report about sexual abuse in juvenile facilities, and the stats from Lookout Mountain were the worst in Colorado.
"At Lookout Mountain, 12 percent of youth reported being sexually assaulted," Asmar wrote. "Additionally, 11 percent reported staff sexual misconduct and 4 percent reported being assaulted by another youth." These figures were higher than the national average, she pointed out.
High-profile escapes have been a part of the Lookout Mountain story for years, too, as exemplified by Zachary Oliver, who chalked up 243 violations at the center prior to August 2014, when he fled after brutally beating an elderly guard with a pillowcase filled with rocks. The following year, when Oliver was sentenced to more than two decades in adult jail, documents revealed a number of worrisome flaws at LMYSC — not just cell doors that could be opened with some minor MacGyvering (Oliver used tissue and a playing card), but also offenders who were repeatedly terrorizing staffers.
More recently, on April 11, Golden police revealed the escape of fifteen-year-old Lookout Mountain inmate Devon Brock, who was considered to be a violent offender. Brock was taken into custody in Littleton on April 12 — but that same day, the center was reportedly placed on lockdown because of a tip involving threats against five guards. Information suggested that inmates might have managed to sneak a weapon into the institution; while a subsequent search failed to uncover any guns or knives, a homemade shank was found. Afterward, two inmates were transferred to another facility.
Two weeks later, on April 26, Lookout Mountain made more bad news when Joseph Forrest, a 49-year-old staff member, was placed under arrest by the Lakewood Police Department for suspected sexual exploitation of a child. The LPD noted that the charge involved "possession of several images of child pornography."
Then, just prior to 6 p.m. on May 1, a riot broke out in the center's Cedar Lodge housing unit. According to the Golden Police Department, the altercation involved eight young inmates and nineteen staffers. The two inmates that police believe instigated the melee were eventually taken into custody and separated from general population, but not before a total of fourteen people sustained injuries, most of which were considered minor.
Regarding the latest incident, the GPD revealed that Madera and Dominguez were discovered missing at 5:20 a.m. on May 6. The pair had last been seen between midnight and 1 a.m. that day, when a guard let the two men, who were roommates, use the restroom; a Golden police officer didn't notice anything awry during a 2:21 a.m. perimeter check. Things were different three hours later: A dumpster had been turned on its side and sheets could be seen hanging out a window on the second floor on the northwest side of their housing unit. A window had also been broken, the cops maintained.
At the same time authorities set out the alert for the escapees, the Colorado Department of Human Services listed some of the changes made at Lookout Mountain in the riot's wake:
• "Staffing levels are challenging and constantly being monitored. However, staffing was at required levels during the escape."
• "The Division’s Associate Director over youth centers is now stationed at Lookout Mountain Youth Services Center and is assigned direct oversight of the center."
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• "As part of the internal review, security protocols are being examined with the intention of instituting change where necessary."
• "Through the process of the internal reviews, CDHS is looking at both this incident and also examining opportunities for larger systemic improvements."
The goal is clearly to prevent incidents like the one that was finally resolved more than a day after the two Lookout Mountain residents escaped.
Update: This post was updated at 6 p.m. May 7 to reflect the arrest of the two escapees.