Teens at Pennsylvania youth center attack staff, vandalize

FRANKLIN, Pa.—As many as 15 teenagers accused of attacking staff members at a facility for troubled juveniles and vandalizing cars could be charged with aggravated assault.

The Sunday morning attacks at the VisionQuest facility in Sandycreek Township, about 70 miles north of Pittsburgh, remained under investigation Monday, state police Trooper Paul Swatzler said.

The facility houses juveniles who have been declared by the courts to be delinquent—that is, convicted of crimes—or dependent due to neglect or other family problems. It has two barracks with 15 teens each, and the unrest was confined to one of those units, Swatzler said.

The trooper said he was trying to determine how many of the 15 juveniles in the one barrack were involved in what appears to be a planned attack on two staff members. The teens, ranging in age from 15 to 18, obscured their faces with knit stocking caps before attacking the staffers, who, Swatzler said, suffered “bumps and bruises.” The teens then smashed windows on two cars belonging to the two staffers they attacked plus a third vehicle owned by another staff member who wasn’t otherwise harmed, the trooper said.

Police could charge those who attacked the staff with aggravated assault because the victims were in a position of legal authority at the facility, Swatzler said.

A vice president at VisionQuest National Ltd., based in Downington, said the organization is cooperating with the police investigation and agreed with the details the trooper provided.

The juveniles aren’t in cells or otherwise locked down at the VisionQuest location in question, which vice president Beth Rosica called a “staff-secure facility,” meaning the staff ensures that juveniles remain there, although doors aren’t locked to restrain them.

“At this point we do not know what precipitated” the attacks, Rosica said.

Swatzler said, “I don’t know if you could call it a riot or just kids being stupid.”

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