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30 teens escape from Nashville detention center

  • One of 32 escaped teenagers, third from right, is turned in by family members, according to a Tennessee Department of Children's Services spokesman, in front of the Woodland Hills Youth Development Center Tuesday, Sept. 2, 2014, in Nashville, Tenn. The teenagers, ages 14 to 19, escaped from the facility Monday night. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

    One of 32 escaped teenagers, third from right, is turned in by family members, according to a Tennessee Department of Children's Services spokesman, in front of the Woodland Hills Youth Development Center Tuesday, Sept. 2, 2014, in Nashville, Tenn. The teenagers, ages 14 to 19, escaped from the facility Monday night. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

  • A crew checks for weak spots in the fence surrounding the Woodland Hills Youth Development Center Tuesday, Sept. 2, 2014, in Nashville, Tenn. According to a Department of Children's Services spokesman, more than 30 teenagers escaped from the facility Monday night by overwhelming 16 to 18 staff members, then crawling under a weak spot in the fence. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

    A crew checks for weak spots in the fence surrounding the Woodland Hills Youth Development Center Tuesday, Sept. 2, 2014, in Nashville, Tenn. According to a Department of Children's Services spokesman, more than 30 teenagers escaped from the facility Monday night by overwhelming 16 to 18 staff members, then crawling under a weak spot in the fence. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

  • One of 32 escaped teenagers, right, is taken into custody after he was turned in by family members, according to a Tennessee Department of Children's Services spokesman, in front of the Woodland Hills Youth Development Center Tuesday, Sept. 2, 2014, in Nashville, Tenn. The teenagers, ages 14 to 19, escaped from the facility Monday night. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

    One of 32 escaped teenagers, right, is taken into custody after he was turned in by family members, according to a Tennessee Department of Children's Services spokesman, in front of the Woodland Hills Youth Development Center Tuesday, Sept. 2, 2014, in Nashville, Tenn. The teenagers, ages 14 to 19, escaped from the facility Monday night. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

  • Police work in front of the Woodland Hills Youth Development Center Tuesday, Sept. 2, 2014, in Nashville, Tenn. Thirty-two teens escaped from a Nashville youth detention center by crawling through a weak spot in a fence late Monday, and more than half of them were still on the run Tuesday, a spokesman said.  (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

    Police work in front of the Woodland Hills Youth Development Center Tuesday, Sept. 2, 2014, in Nashville, Tenn. Thirty-two teens escaped from a Nashville youth detention center by crawling through a weak spot in a fence late Monday, and more than half of them were still on the run Tuesday, a spokesman said. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

  • A Nashville police car leaves the Woodland Hills Youth Development Center Tuesday, Sept. 2, 2014, in Nashville, Tenn. Thirty-two teens escaped from a Nashville youth detention center by crawling through a weak spot in a fence late Monday, and more than half of them were still on the run Tuesday, a spokesman said.  (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

    A Nashville police car leaves the Woodland Hills Youth Development Center Tuesday, Sept. 2, 2014, in Nashville, Tenn. Thirty-two teens escaped from a Nashville youth detention center by crawling through a weak spot in a fence late Monday, and more than half of them were still on the run Tuesday, a spokesman said. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

  • Police work in front of the Woodland Hills Youth Development Center Tuesday, Sept. 2, 2014, in Nashville, Tenn. Thirty-two teens escaped from a Nashville youth detention center by crawling through a weak spot in a fence late Monday, and more than half of them were still on the run Tuesday, a spokesman said.  (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

    Police work in front of the Woodland Hills Youth Development Center Tuesday, Sept. 2, 2014, in Nashville, Tenn. Thirty-two teens escaped from a Nashville youth detention center by crawling through a weak spot in a fence late Monday, and more than half of them were still on the run Tuesday, a spokesman said. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

  • Police work in front of the Woodland Hills Youth Development Center Tuesday, Sept. 2, 2014, in Nashville, Tenn. Thirty-two teens escaped from a Nashville youth detention center by crawling through a weak spot in a fence late Monday, and more than half of them were still on the run Tuesday, a spokesman said.  (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

    Police work in front of the Woodland Hills Youth Development Center Tuesday, Sept. 2, 2014, in Nashville, Tenn. Thirty-two teens escaped from a Nashville youth detention center by crawling through a weak spot in a fence late Monday, and more than half of them were still on the run Tuesday, a spokesman said. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

  • One of 32 escaped teenagers, third from right, is turned in by family members, according to a Tennessee Department of Children's Services spokesman, in front of the Woodland Hills Youth Development Center Tuesday, Sept. 2, 2014, in Nashville, Tenn. The teenagers, ages 14 to 19, escaped from the facility Monday night. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)
  • A crew checks for weak spots in the fence surrounding the Woodland Hills Youth Development Center Tuesday, Sept. 2, 2014, in Nashville, Tenn. According to a Department of Children's Services spokesman, more than 30 teenagers escaped from the facility Monday night by overwhelming 16 to 18 staff members, then crawling under a weak spot in the fence. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)
  • One of 32 escaped teenagers, right, is taken into custody after he was turned in by family members, according to a Tennessee Department of Children's Services spokesman, in front of the Woodland Hills Youth Development Center Tuesday, Sept. 2, 2014, in Nashville, Tenn. The teenagers, ages 14 to 19, escaped from the facility Monday night. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)
  • Police work in front of the Woodland Hills Youth Development Center Tuesday, Sept. 2, 2014, in Nashville, Tenn. Thirty-two teens escaped from a Nashville youth detention center by crawling through a weak spot in a fence late Monday, and more than half of them were still on the run Tuesday, a spokesman said.  (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)
  • A Nashville police car leaves the Woodland Hills Youth Development Center Tuesday, Sept. 2, 2014, in Nashville, Tenn. Thirty-two teens escaped from a Nashville youth detention center by crawling through a weak spot in a fence late Monday, and more than half of them were still on the run Tuesday, a spokesman said.  (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)
  • Police work in front of the Woodland Hills Youth Development Center Tuesday, Sept. 2, 2014, in Nashville, Tenn. Thirty-two teens escaped from a Nashville youth detention center by crawling through a weak spot in a fence late Monday, and more than half of them were still on the run Tuesday, a spokesman said.  (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)
  • Police work in front of the Woodland Hills Youth Development Center Tuesday, Sept. 2, 2014, in Nashville, Tenn. Thirty-two teens escaped from a Nashville youth detention center by crawling through a weak spot in a fence late Monday, and more than half of them were still on the run Tuesday, a spokesman said.  (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

Thirty teens “overwhelmed” their minders at a juvenile detention center in Nashville, Tenn., by simultaneously breaking out of four dormitories and then crawling under a weak spot in a chain-link fence. By last night, eight were still on the run.

The police caught up with some walking along roads or coming out of the woods. Some turned themselves in. And some were swiftly returned to the detention center by their own families for their own good.

“He broke loose, he was gone, but he’s back now,” said LaWanda Knowles, whose nephew joined the escape. “I just want to know that he’s here safely and he’s okay – I don’t want the police jumping on him, nobody beating on him or nothing.”

The teens – ages 14 to 19 – left their rooms at the Woodland Hills Youth Development Center about 11 p.m. Monday and gathered in common areas. With just 16 unarmed adults to keep watch over 78 youths in 12 dormitories, the staff was “overwhelmed,” said Tennessee Department of Children’s Services spokesman Rob Johnson.

“Staffing was lighter during the overnight hours, so presumably they had planned for that,” Johnson said.

The groups of young men kicked out metal panels under the windows of each dorm to get into the yard, and then ran around for a while before some started slipping through the chain-link fence that encircles their campus. The fence is buried 8 inches deep into the ground, but the teens found a spot where they could slip out underneath it.

None of the staff were hurt, and initially they simply called other staffers for backup to help bring the teens back into the dormitories. Once they spotted the teens escaping the perimeter, they alerted the police, and the Tennessee Highway Patrol joined the search.

While juvenile records are sealed, the police released the names and mug shots of the remaining eight fugitives, all of whom are 17 or 18 years old. None are convicted killers, said Melvin Whitlow, the facility’s superintendent.

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