A former residential youth worker said he’s fighting to fill gaps in the juvenile justice system after a Cleveland teen was released from a juvenile unit against his advice and killed just weeks later.
Damien Parker worked at a Cleveland shelter care program meant for teens awaiting a juvenile court case.
He said that’s where he met 16-year-old Artwon Oliver for a period of about three months.
According to records obtained by News 5, Oliver had a long juvenile court history including burglary, trespassing and disorderly conduct. Many of his cases involved several co-defendants and Parker said the teen was caught up with a bad crowd of people.
“But he started to change, things turned around he was able to make more positive decisions for himself,” Parker said.
He said Oliver expressed some concerns about returning to the streets. Parker lobbied for a three-month extension so he could continue to help him, but that request was denied.
“We’re the ones who deal with these kids every day, so why would you not pay attention to that?” Parker said.
Just weeks later, he awoke to the news that Oliver had been attacked by a group of people as he left a party in Cleveland Heights and was shot and killed.
“It could have been prevented,” he said, devastated by the outcome. “There’s nothing about this situation that at several different points that it couldn’t have been turned around.”
A spokesperson for the program said that legally they could not comment on any patients due to HIPPA regulations.
Oliver quit his job and starting earlier this year resolved to do something about it.
He reached out to several local boxing and mixed martial arts gyms including Old School Iron Gym in Brookpark. The group is now hoping to train at risk youth at the gym through an after school program aimed at helping build confidence and keeping troubled teens out of the juvenile justice system.
They’re also hoping to provide meals and transportation for the teens.