Thirty-two teens escaped from a youth detention centre by crawling through a weak spot in a fence late Monday, and more than half of them were still on the run Tuesday, a spokesman said.
The teens — ages 14 to 19 — went out into a yard at the Nashville centre all at once, shortly after a shift change, Tennessee Department of Children's Services spokesman Rob Johnson said. They escaped through the fence surrounding the yard about 11 p.m., Johnson said, but it wasn't clear whether that was spontaneous or a planned move.
Two teens were captured immediately and 13 others were found overnight, Johnson said. Local police and the Tennessee Highway Patrol were searching for the 17 others.
The state-owned centre held 78 teens at the time of the escape, and most had committed at least three felonies, Johnson said. The centre has a school, offers vocational training and career counselling, and works to move teens to less restrictive settings, according to a state website.
The Woodland Hills Youth Development Center was calm and back under control Tuesday morning, Johnson said. Police cars were on the scene, but there was little activity at the centre or its neighbours — a women's prison, several offices for trucking companies and other businesses.
On the western edge of the facility, the spot where the teens escaped, the closest neighbours are a frozen pizza plant and a liquor distributor.