KEARNEY — Kearney law enforcement, including a K9 unit, responded to an assault early Friday morning at Kearney’s Youth Rehabilitation and Treatment Center that sent two staff members to the hospital.
Around 1:46 a.m. a YRTC employee called the Buffalo County 911 communications center reporting two to three staff members were locked in a room, and YRTC juveniles had weapons. Three Buffalo County Sheriff deputies, six Kearney Police Department officers, including the K9 unit, and a Nebraska State Patrol trooper responded to the scene, said Rob Tubbs, 911 communications supervisor.
At 2 a.m. KPD officers made a call requesting 20-30 flex cuffs, or plastic handcuffs, be taken to the scene. A YRTC staffer also asked dispatchers to send an ambulance to the scene. Two staff members were transported to CHI Health Good Samaritan.
According to a deputy’s computer-aided dispatch notes, Tubbs said the suspects were separated from the rest of the group. It appeared a bed frame was dismantled and thrown against a door, damaging a door and destroying the bed.
At 3 a.m. officers made “secondary entry” to the facility, Tubbs said, “secured the offenders,” and transferred them to a secure location inside the facility. Records are unclear when the first entry to YRTC was made.
Names of the staff members and their medical conditions were unknown Friday night to the Kearney Hub.
In a joint statement from NSP and the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services, which runs YRTC, the incident began at 1:30 a.m. in one of the male dorms on the campus. The incident involved several staff members being assaulted and receiving non-life-threatening injuries, said Khalilah LeGrand, director of the office of communications for DHHS, in an email to the Hub.
The incident was resolved by 1:55 a.m., said LeGrand.
“The teams in our YRTC system serve some of our most challenging youth,” said the email. “We continue to support our team and provide them with the tools they need to help manage behaviors, facilitate treatment and ensure safety and security of staff and the youth we serve. Both DHHS and the state patrol are collaborating to investigate the matter.
“The department is committed to employing best practices and improving processes to ensure that youth involved in our programs receive the skills needed to live better lives,” LeGrand added.
Since November, DHHS has been creating a YRTC system by revamping existing facilities at Kearney for male juvenile offenders and Geneva for female juvenile offenders, and adding a third center in Lincoln. The announcement came from Danette Smith, CEO of DHHS, two months after she ordered all the girls moved out of the Geneva center and into the Kearney center.
“The three-pronged approach addresses immediate needs while ensuring the safety and well-being of the youth we serve. It also allows for long-range strategic planning done in collaboration with key stakeholders,” Smith said at the time.
She issued the order after concluding that staff shortages, inadequate programming and deteriorating buildings at the Geneva campus had combined to create an urgent situation.
According to LeGrand’s email to the Hub on Friday, the transition model currently is being implemented.
“As with any transition, there are a myriad of variables to work through,” she said. “The teens with a higher acuity and slated to transition to the Lincoln facility will be transferred sometime this month.”