‘He just lost it.’ A sample of abuse cases from KY juvenile detention centers.

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The following is a sample of the 116 substantiated “special incidents” reported over the last three years by the Kentucky Department of Juvenile Justice Internal Investigations Branch.

Unless otherwise stated, the names, dates, quotes and other information come from the department’s investigative reports, obtained by the Herald-Leader through the Open Records Act.

June 23, 2018: Youth worker supervisor Roger Fisher kicked a door closed on a juvenile’s hand while she was asking for assistance with hygiene products, then failed to seek medical treatment for her or properly report the incident. He was still employed this summer. He declined to comment. Fayette Regional Juvenile Detention Center.

July 24, 2018: During an argument over the length of a juvenile’s phone call with his mother, youth worker Ashley Allen threatened to have him shot by her boyfriend and beaten by other youths in detention with him. Allen denied this complaint, but several witnesses told investigators it was true. She was still employed this summer and did not respond to a request seeking comment. Westport Group Home.

Oct. 17, 2018: Seated at a desk, youth worker Sarah Brousseau failed to intervene as one youth brutally attacked another youth with repeated punches to the head. Brousseau later told investigators she was not physically “fit enough” to intervene. The injured youth was taken to the hospital with head injuries. The Internal Investigations Branch was not notified until Aug. 12, 2019, nearly a year later. She was fired. Warren Regional Juvenile Detention Center.

Jan. 1, 2019: Youth worker Jason Schepers held an unauthorized combat competition between himself and juveniles that got out of hand. They traded punches and slaps. He was kneed in the groin and fell to the ground while residents laughed at him. Schepers knocked a juvenile over a chair. He is not still employed by the department and could not be reached for comment. Westport Group Home.

Feb. 27, 2019: Youth worker Rebecca Pittman engaged in a sexually inappropriate relationship with a juvenile even after she was ordered by her superiors to have no contact with him. Pittman was fired and pleaded guilty this year to the crimes of unlawful transaction with a minor and official misconduct. She was sentenced to a suspended 12-month jail sentence, probated for two years. Adair Youth Development Center.

July 21, 2019: Youth worker Emanuel Abbage yelled at a juvenile for exceeding the five-minute shower limit by three minutes. Abbage followed the juvenile back to his room and challenged him — “What’s up, dog?” “What you want to do?” “Go ahead, go ahead!” — then shoved him to the ground, grabbed his hair and punched him at least five times in the face. The juvenile was spitting out blood. Abbage was placed on leave July 23, 2019, and fired three months later. McCracken Regional Juvenile Detention Center.

Feb. 11, 2020: A juvenile was handcuffed and shackled in isolation. Youth worker Daniel Penick (6-feet, 9-inches and 375 pounds) entered the room, grabbed the juvenile (5-feet, 10-inches and 190 pounds) and shoved him backward, causing him to fall and hit his head on the concrete wall. The juvenile tried to stand, but Penick grabbed his head and shoved him back down, where again his head smashed into the wall. Penick then grabbed the teen’s head in both hands and forcefully pushed him back into the corner. A colleague later told investigators that “Dan Penick was spit on and he just lost it.” She added, “Many of the staff looked like deer in the headlights and were uncertain about how to handle the situation.” Penick was placed on leave after the incident and resigned on April 8, 2020. Campbell Regional Juvenile Detention Center.

May 7, 2020: After a juvenile walked to the cafeteria entrance against staff orders, youth worker Fiyinfoluwa Elegbede pushed his head into a window, then reached between the juvenile’s legs, grabbed one of his hands and took him to the floor. Separately, Lexington police charged Elegbede with child abuse earlier this year for allegedly beating his step-son with a belt hard enough to leave the boy covered in bruises, according to Fayette District Court records. The case was dropped after Elegbede died on Feb. 9, 2021. Fayette Regional Juvenile Detention Center.

Oct. 8, 2020: Youth worker Benjamin Gideon stood on a juvenile’s ankle chains, pinning him to the floor, then used one of his feet to sweep the boy’s legs out from under him, knocking him down. Gideon grabbed the juvenile’s ankle chains in his hands and used them to drag the boy across the room. Placed in an isolation cell, the cuffed and manacled juvenile banged his head against the metal door 27 times over three minutes while youth worker Isabelle Worley — standing outside the door — kept her back turned, not intervening. Worley later said she was instructed to “let him get his anger out.” The juvenile finally seemed to pass out and needed to be revived by staff. Gideon and Worley are not still employed with the department. Campbell Regional Juvenile Detention Center.

Jan. 18, 2021: Youth worker Thomas Langston supervised a girl’s shower, including handing her a towel and asking her “Doing good?” while holding open the shower door with his arm. The girl protested that she was nude and she was uncomfortable with the incident, having requested a female staff member. Langston told a colleague that he had supervised girls in the shower previously. He quit on May 8. McCracken Regional Juvenile Detention Center.

March 24, 2021: Assistant superintendent Ben Cook had the door to an isolation cell opened and challenged the juvenile inside to a fight. “I’m right here,” Cook told the juvenile. “You want to be up to something? I’m right here.” Cook’s rant included terms such as “bitch-ass.” The juvenile replied, “I ain’t fighting” and eventually started crying. Social services clinician Thomas Walker described the scene to internal investigators as “a power trip.” Cook, who was still employed this summer, declined to discuss the incident with the Herald-Leader. McCracken Regional Juvenile Detention Center.

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