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32 teens escape from Nashville detention center

NASHVILLE — Thirty-two teens ‘‘overwhelmed’’ their minders and escaped from a juvenile detention center by crawling under a weak spot in a fence, a state government spokesman said. Hours later Tuesday, seven were still on the run.

Police caught up with some walking along roads or coming out of the woods. Some turned themselves in. And some were swiftly delivered back to the detention center by their own families, concerned about what other trouble they might face on the outside.

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‘‘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 OK — I don’t want the police jumping on him, nobody beating on him.’’

The teens — ages 14 to 19 — left their rooms at the Woodland Hills Youth Development Center at about 11 p.m. Monday night and ‘‘overwhelmed’’ the staff in a common area, said Rob Johnson, spokesman for Tennessee’s Department of Children’s Services.

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

The group then kicked out a metal panel under a window to get into a yard, and ran for a chain-link fence. The fence is buried 8 inches deep into the ground, but the teens managed to pull up a weak portion and slip out underneath it.

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