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32 teens escape from Nashville detention center

Police worked in front of the Woodland Hills Youth Development Center on Tuesday.

Mark Humphrey/AP

Police worked in front of the Woodland Hills Youth Development Center on Tuesday.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Thirty-two teens escaped from a Nashville youth detention center by crawling under a weak spot in a fence late Monday, and 10 of them were still on the run Tuesday, a spokesman said.

The teens — ages 14 to 19 — left their rooms and went into a common area, where they overwhelmed 16 to 18 staff members and kicked out a metal panel under a window to get out of the building and into a yard, Tennessee Department of Children’s Services spokesman Rob Johnson said. Once in the yard, the teens realized they could lift part of the fence surrounding it and get out, Johnson said. Once staff members saw some of the group leaving, they called the police.

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The chain-link fence is buried 8 inches deep into the ground, but the teens managed to pull up one part and get out underneath, Johnson said.

Two teens were captured immediately and others were found overnight, Johnson said. Local police and the Tennessee Highway Patrol were still searching for 10 from the group Tuesday morning.

The state-owned center in northwest Nashville held 78 teens at the time of the escape, and most had committed at least three felonies, Johnson said. The center has a school, offers vocational training and career counseling, and works to move teens to less restrictive settings, according to a state website.

The detention center was calm and back under control Tuesday morning, Johnson said. Police cars were on the scene, but there was little activity at the center or its neighbors — a women’s prison, several offices for trucking companies and other businesses.

On the western edge of the facility, the spot where the teens escaped, the closest neighbors are a frozen pizza plant and a liquor distributor.

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