Torture alleged at youth center

OPELIKA, GA (WXTX) – Opelika police say an employee at the Lee County Development Center is accused of burning a teenager with a lighter. According to police the alleged incident happened on May 16th, but wasn't reported by the department of human resources to police until Wednesday.

The report sparked a full blown investigation at the center, after a 15 year old male resident at the facility claims he was badly burned by an employee while he was in the shower.

Opelika Police Capt. Allan Elkins says, a 32 year old employee of the center located the juvenile passed out in a shower inside the facility. It's alleged that he used a cigarette lighter and burned the child to see if the child was faking. When it was discovered the child was not faking medical treatment was summoned.

Robert Thompson represents the victim and his family, who are from Tuskegee. He told News Leader 9 that he's concerned it took 6 weeks for the incident to be reported to police by DHR.

Thompson says his client suffered a third degree burn in the incident, and says he has pictures of the wound. He maintains his client's rights were violated and suffered cruel and unusual punishment.

Thompson says the family will sue, if a settlement can not be reached.

Laura Cooper, the director, released a statement saying the incident was under investigation.

She says, "The center has a longstanding commitment to providing quality services and care to those who are most vulnerable."

Cooper did not comment on the employee involved, but Elkins says they no longer work at the facility and he is not aware of any other incidents of alleged abuse.

Opelika police will not release the name of the suspect until an arrest has been made.

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