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News / Northwest

‘Riot’ at Tacoma juvenile detention center causes $35,000 in damages, police report says

By Alexis Krell, The News Tribune
Published: June 2, 2023, 7:47am

TACOMA — It took nine Tacoma police officers to quell an hour-long disturbance that staff described as a riot at the Remann Hall juvenile detention center Monday night, according to police reports.

No one was hurt. Officials estimate the damage to the facility to be $35,000, the reports said.

Video of the incident, apparently taken by someone detained at the center, was posted to at least one social media account.

A spokesperson for the Pierce County Prosecutor’s Office said prosecutors will review what happened for possible charges.

The police reports, which The News Tribune received through a public records request, identify the participants as four 16-year-old boys and a 17-year-old boy. Two were in custody on suspicion of first-degree assault, one on suspicion of first-degree murder, one for a probation violation and one for a weapons violation, the reports say. Three others in the pod stayed in their cells during the disturbance.

The Pierce County Juvenile Court at 5501 6th Ave. handles probation and detention, among other things.

“On Monday evening there was an incident inside one of our pods in Detention that escalated, with no injuries,” Pierce County Juvenile Court spokesperson Jinnie Horan told The News Tribune in an email Wednesday. “Tacoma Police were called in to support our Detention staff and together they were able to ensure the five young people were safely escorted into their individual rooms. Safety and security remains our top priority. We are carefully reviewing the incident so we can learn from it and make any necessary changes to policy or practice.”

Horan did not immediately respond when asked for additional information about what happened.

The police reports The News Tribune received Thursday give this account:

The detention supervisor called 911 at 8:05 p.m. Monday and said: “juveniles are rioting in the G unit” and that they were “trying to fight the staff.”

Minutes later the supervisor called again and said the teenagers wouldn’t go to their cells and that it was “too much for the staff to handle.”

No one was assaulted, the supervisor said, but the teenagers were trying to break windows.

Police arrived and spoke with the supervisor at 8:33.

The supervisor explained that the teenagers are supposed to go to their cells at 8 p.m. This time five wouldn’t.

The supervisor said an officer who was alone with the teenagers called other staff to help. The detention officer who had been on her own later told police the teenagers yelled obscenities at her and one poured shampoo on the floor. She called for help, and then the teenagers said they wanted to fight the staff one-on-one.

“All of the staff backed out of the pod and locked the doors,” the main police report said.

The five teenagers started “breaking the glass and anything else they could get their hands on,” the report said.

That’s when the supervisor arrived and called 911, after “seeing for himself what he described as a riot,” the report said.

Police saw garbage cans barricading the door to the unit, which had a wet floor, broken windows and a disabled security camera. Tables were flipped over, and clothing and bedding were on the floor.

Police saw one of the teenagers filming them with a cellphone a detention center staff member left in the pod.

One of the juveniles yelled obscenities and explained that “they were tired of bad food, among various other complaints,” the report said.

When six additional officers arrived, one of the teenagers told police: “We’re done.”

Police handcuffed the teenagers and took them to individual cells in a different area without incident.

A supplemental police report said one of the detention officers, asked by police what the protocol for such a disturbance is, told them: “there is none, except to call the police.”

In the roughly 30 years he’s worked there, the report said, he “has never had a similar experience to this.”

One police report explained that officers were concerned the teenagers could crawl through a broken window into a courtyard and find a way to escape but that no one went through the window.

Video posted to social media

The News Tribune reported Wednesday that a two-minute video posted to the @WAStateHomicide account on Twitter May 30 was captioned, “Inmates go Instagram Live during riot at Remann Hall in #Tacoma last night.”

The Twitter account’s bio says its purpose is “Tracking homicide cases throughout the State of Washington. This page is not affiliated with any police department in any way.”

The video is hard to follow.

It appears to be filmed and narrated by a young man who uses profane language and makes a profane gesture toward police officers or guards who are looking into the room through the window of a detention center door.

The video appears to show a disheveled room with furniture and other items possibly blocking the entrance, and pans to show a few other young people at times.

At one point, the narrator appears to call one of the officers or guards “ugly,” “bald” and asks: “What are you going to do?”

The sound cuts out at times.

Soon after the officer or guard appears to lean against the window and smile for a moment.

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Meanwhile, someone who appears to be on the phone with the narrator says: “I’m on Live.”

Then the narrator says, “We’re going out there, though,” and the video shows someone smashing something that looks like a chair through a window. Soon after the narrator appears to smile and, as if goofing around, says something that sounds like: “(expletive) it, we’re not going out. Never mind, never mind, never mind.”