Juvenile fugitives caught — police baffled by Jetson director’s claimed ‘chase’

This story was published in The Advocate on July 9, 2012. 

Authorities found and arrested two juvenile fugitives late Saturday, hours after the facility’s director was placed on administrative leave for engaging in a chase “on his own,” said a spokeswoman Sunday.

Director Daron Brown

The administrator left law enforcement agencies from Baton Rouge to New Orleans confused Sunday after he claimed to have chased an SUV Friday night thought to be carrying two juvenile escapees. Some authorities, however, questioned whether the two-hour, high-speed pursuit even happened.

“Everything was unfounded,” said State Police spokesman Sgt. Len Marie. “We had units set up all over the interstate ready to intercept this vehicle as it came through, but it never came through. We don’t even know for a fact that this guy was ever actually involved in a chase.”

The two fugitives Jetson Center for Youth Director Daron Brown claimed to be chasing Friday night, were arrested late Saturday.

Demonte Washington, 15, and Clarence McWilliams, 18, both of Baton Rouge, were found alone in a house in the 1000 block of America Street about 11:40 p.m. and were arrested “without incident,” said East Baton Rouge sheriff’s spokeswoman Casey Rayborn Hicks.

McWilliams was booked into Parish Prison on a count of simple escape. The juvenile was booked into the East Baton Rouge Parish Juvenile Detention Center on a count of simple escape, Hicks said.

McWilliams and Washington, who are both from Baton Rouge, had been on the run since sometime after 8:15 p.m. Tuesday.

Brown was placed on administrative leave Saturday after state Office of Juvenile Justice staff determined the director’s two-hour chase Friday night was “acting on his own — outside OJJ command,” said OJJ spokeswoman Jerel Giarrusso.

The agency has opened an investigation on the chase, Giarrusso said.

While off-duty, Brown decided to follow up on a tip he overheard on the police radio about 9:30 p.m. regarding a white Chevy Tahoe in Scotlandville believed to be carrying the escapees, Giarrusso said.

Brown contacted law enforcement to say that he had spotted the white Tahoe and was chasing it — in his own vehicle without lights and sirens — down Airline Highway toward Glen Oaks, Giarrusso said.

In phone calls with the OJJ Command Center, Brown reported that his chase had continued down Interstate 10 toward New Orleans at speeds in excess of 90 mph, Giarrusso said.

No drivers called State Police to report seeing a high-speed chase between two civilians on the interstate, said spokesman Trooper Russell Graham.

Despite repeated attempts to make contact, no officer in any law enforcement agency — not East Baton Rouge Sheriff’s Office, Baton Rouge Police, Ascension Parish Sheriff’s Office, State Police nor Kenner Police — ever saw the white Tahoe or the director’s car on the interstate, law enforcement officials said Sunday when they were contacted.

Brown called OJJ Command Center about 11:30 p.m. to say he had chased the white Tahoe all the way to Kenner, said Giarrusso.

“We believe that he was not in the Kenner area or Troop B area, but that he was in the Baton Rouge area,” Marie said. State Police Troop B is in Orleans, Jefferson, St. Charles, part of St. John the Baptist parishes.

And a Kenner Police spokesman said that his department could not find the director or the white Tahoe.

“The caller never could provide any more information — nothing about the location of it (Tahoe),” said spokesman Lt. Wayne McInnis.

The East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff’s Office was not involved in the chase, said spokeswoman Casey Rayborn Hicks.

Neither was the Baton Rouge Police Department, said spokesman Cpl. L’Jean McKneely.

State troopers stationed in East Baton Rouge, Ascension and St. James parishes activated their emergency flashing lights and sirens to try to catch up with the escapees’ vehicle on the interstate, but never saw the SUV, Graham said.

“Everything (Brown) was relaying to (police dispatchers) was unfounded,” said Trooper Melissa Matey, a spokeswoman for State Police Troop B. “They never found a white Tahoe. They never even saw his vehicle. They never saw him.”

Brown did not respond to multiple voicemails left on his cell phone from Friday through Sunday seeking comment.

Giarrusso said Sunday there is an ongoing investigation into how the pair escaped.

Washington had been convicted on a charge of burglary of an inhabited dwelling, while McWilliams had been convicted on charges of simple burglary and carjacking.

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