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A staff member of the Ramsey County Juvenile Detention Center committed maltreatment in May when grabbing and forcing a juvenile to the floor, causing serious harm, a state Department of Human Services (DHS) investigation found.

The employee was fired a day after the incident, according to a DHS memo released last week, which was scant on details such as the name, age and gender of those involved. A supervisor had called the behavior something "way outside" the facility's use-of-force policy, according to the memo.

DHS investigates reports of suspected maltreatment in juvenile correctional facilities. Because the staff member had received training on the facility's policies and state law, DHS determined the staffer, not the facility, was responsible.

Ramsey County declined to comment on the incident "due to the possibility of pending litigation."

DHS said it referred the case to the Department of Corrections for any follow-up.

Juvenile found unresponsive

According DHS' investigative memorandum issued Oct. 4:

Video footage described in the memo from the May 11 incident showed words exchanged between the juvenile and the staffer through a glass window in the door of the juvenile's room. The staffer walked away and returned to the door five times, continuing the exchange. The video had no audio.

The video showed that the staffer appeared agitated before pointing at the juvenile, according to the report. Eventually, the staffer unlocked the door. When the juvenile stepped forward, the staffer reached toward the juvenile's neck, grabbed their T-shirt and forced them to the floor. The staffer then got on top of the juvenile and pushed them into the floor multiple times, the memo said. Video showed the juvenile's head bouncing up and down, twice hitting the floor. The staffer turned the juvenile to their other side and put a knee to their back, pinning an arm behind their back.

According to the report, the juvenile did not appear to fight back when pushed into the floor. The staffer radioed "Code 2," meaning an incident that could be life-threatening or result in serious harm. When other staff arrived, one checked on the juvenile, who stood up and was put back in their room.

After the incident, the juvenile declined a nurse assessment for a bleeding lip, the report said. The juvenile was evaluated later that day after being found unresponsive. The juvenile told the nurse they were seeing stars. Numerous times in the following days, the juvenile was found unresponsive, sometimes with blood nearby, the report said. They were taken to the hospital twice, where examinations found the juvenile bruised with swelling on the right shin, but tests, including CT, EKG and X-rays, were normal.

Staffer fired

The staffer was sent home after writing a report on the incident, and was terminated the next day. In the DHS memo, a supervisor said the staffer had not followed proper procedures because the juvenile had been in a secured room and didn't pose a threat. Facility policy dictates using the minimum force necessary.

Because the juvenile was injured, DHS concluded the incident met the bar for "serious maltreatment," which disqualifies the staffer from providing direct contact services.

The Ramsey County Juvenile Detention Center, in downtown St. Paul, is licensed for as many as 44 juveniles up to age 18.

There are no other public reports of maltreatment investigations or licensing actions associated with the detention center on DHS' website, which shows records for four years after they're posted. Across 20 juvenile detention centers in Minnesota listed on the DHS site, there were 11 posted maltreatment investigations, including one at the Hennepin County Juvenile Detention Center, released in March.