Clallam juvenile hall staff stunned by teen’s suicide, another’s attempt

PORT ANGELES — A 17-year-old boy hanged himself in the county’s youth detention center last week, and another teen attempted to strangle himself the same way a day later.

The first boy was found by a detention officer in his cell Thursday morning with a sheet wrapped around his neck, Clallam County Juvenile and Family Services Director Pete Peterson said.

Staff and medics administered cardiopulmonary resuscitation and transported the boy to Olympic Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead.

The other 17-year-old boy was found choking, with a sheet around his neck Friday evening inside his cell, “but it was instant enough that it was caught,” said Peterson.

The boy was not physically injured.

The boy was placed in a padded cell with an observation camera and was later taken to the hospital for a psychiatric evaluation after he tried to hurt himself again, Peterson said.

Crisis teams

Crisis teams have been working with the two dozen youth being held at the facility, as well as staff, since Thursday, and the facility’s routine has changed slightly this weekend to keep the youth occupied, Peterson said.

“Our first concern is always the youth that are in our care and custody,” he said.

“This is a major incident, obviously, not just for the young man that committed suicide.”

Juvenile Services staff are conducting an internal investigation into the boy’s death and the hours leading up to it, looking at policy, procedure and for “some indicator of something” to help answer questions about the incident, Peterson said.

This is the first time a child had died in the custody of Juvenile Services, he said.

The boy, identified as Joshua R. Petty of Port Angeles, had been held at the detention center in lieu of bail for about one week for charges of burglary and theft, Peterson said. He had no set release date.

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