The fourth teen who escaped from Nashville’s juvenile detention center was caught at an apartment complex in Antioch Thursday afternoon, ending a 13-day search.
Police say tips from Crime Stoppers helped them find 17-year-old Brandon Caruthers. The investigation also sheds light on the inner workings of a police unit created in early 2018 to address teen crime.
Lt. Blaine Whited, the head of the Juvenile Crime Task Force, says relationships built over the past two years played a central role in the teens’ capture.
Whited told WPLN earlier this week that his officers already knew all four teens before they escaped. Those relationships, he says, helped his unit track them down.
“It’s really good when we know the youth and when you have a relationship and have that rapport with them, because they know what to expect when we deal with them,” Whited said. “If it’s an unknown officer, they may have some level of anxiety or fear in dealing with that officer, because they don’t know how they might be treated. But they know exactly how we’re going to treat them, and we know them very well.”
Whited says his officers also arrested Brandon Caruthers the first time around — a case he said took months. So they knew what to expect when they took the teen into custody Thursday.
Caruthers’ friends chose not to turn him in, in spite of a $10,000 reward offered by the police department, Whited said at a press conference following the teen’s capture. “We knew what kind of friends he had, and it was going to be difficult to catch him,” he said.
The three other teens who escaped from the juvenile detention center were apprehended over the course of the past week and a half. Officers from the Juvenile Crime Task Force and MNPD’s gang unit arrested Decorrius Wright and Calvin Howse, both 16, during a foot chase at an apartment complex in Madison last Tuesday. Over the weekend, police captured Morris Marsh, 17, after a 15-minute car pursuit.
Several of the teens’ relatives and friends have been arrested for helping with the escape after the fact. Two former juvenile detention center employees have also been arrested for their roles in the incident.
An internal report by Youth Opportunity Investments, the private company that manages the juvenile facility, found that multiple staff members broke protocol on the night of Nov. 30, which ultimately allowed the teens to run out the front doors of the building, onto Woodland Street.
Both the Juvenile Court and the police department have expressed concerns about the detention center’s management. And since the escape, The Tennessean reports, new information has come to light that’s raised concerns, including a federal whistleblower lawsuit filed last year against the company that an executive failed to disclose to Juvenile Court staff.
Court administrator Kathy Sinback said in a statement that her office cannot comment on the criminal charges pending against Youth Opportunity Investments’ former employees. But, she added, the “Juvenile Court is continuing to conduct an exhaustive review of the circumstances surrounding the escape, as well as our detention contract generally.”
Metro’s five-year contract with the company is set to expire next June. Several clauses in the agreement would allow the city to end the contract early, but it’s unclear if Metro, or another private company, would be better equipped to oversee the facility.
Whited, however, said he expects to see some changes at the juvenile detention center.
“You saw the arrests this week of employees,” he said at the press conference. “I think that sends a clear message that there was a lot that went wrong that night.”
Samantha Max is a Report for America corps member.