Why did youth jail refuse to book suspected teen gang member found in car with guns?

BURIEN , Wash. -- As gang violence escalates in Burien, a traffic stop Sunday night resulting in a teen gang member not going to jail prompted the police chief to address the City Council.

“A system where juveniles are released from custody over and over again despite multiple firearm charges is not in the best interest of community safety,” Police Chief Ted Boe said.

King County Sheriff's Sgt. Ryan Abbott says the incident began when deputies pulled over a car with five known gang members inside Sunday night.

“Ordered everyone’s hands up. Immediately our detectives could see some guns in the car,” said Abbott.

He says the gang members tried to hide weapons under seats and one of them tried to switch seats with the driver who had a suspended license.

Deputies called more patrols for backup, but were able to safely handcuff everyone in the vehicle and book two adults into the King County Jail.

“We were able to get some more guns off the streets but we weren’t able to get everyone into jail or behind bars yet,” said Abbott.

Boe says one of the five people in the car was a 15-year-old known gang member with a prior conviction for a possession of a firearm and a current case pending for having a firearm on school grounds.

"When officers wanted to book him, that booking request was denied, officers had no choice (but) to take him home,” said Boe.

Law enforcement could not comment on why the teen was denied into the King County youth jail other than saying the youth jail’s criteria was not met in this case.

"The disconnect with this one is with the Youth Service Center, the screening, and the detectives on scene. I don’t know why they denied him, we were just told they weren’t going to accept him,” said Abbott.

He says booking juveniles is a different process than booking adults into the King County Jail. Abbott says the youth jail has criteria that has to be met before they take in youth. Abbott was not able to comment on the criteria. The youth jail did not respond back to Q13’s requests on their process of booking youth and about this case.

Abbott says having a known gang member out on the streets when he could’ve been in jail is concerning for law enforcement and the public.

"It is a little scary. I have thought about moving out of here because of all the stuff I see on the news all the time,” said Oleg Lebed, a Burien resident.

"We need some help around here,” Nik Paulson said of the growing gang problem in Burien.

Abbott says the vehicle involved in the traffic stop was towed Sunday night. On Tuesday afternoon, he says, deputies served a search warrant of the vehicle and located a handgun where the 15-year-old allegedly said he had stashed it.

Abbott says the gun will now go into evidence and the case will be submitted to the prosecutor’s office for charges to be filed.