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published: Monday, August 19, 2013
Judd says felony charges coming in wake of APYA riot
By CHRISTOPHER TUFFLEY
WINTER HAVEN -- Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd held a press conference Monday afternoon regarding the riot at the Avon Park Youth Academy Saturday night.
The academy, he said, is a state-run facility under the Department of Juvenile Justice, administered by G4S, a private provider.
Several times, Judd emphasized that the academy staff had done an excellent job and worked "valiantly" to contain the fighting as soon as it began. Judd also complimented DJJ for its cooperation at the time and since.
DJJ rules prohibit special crowd-control equipment at the facility, so the staff had no resources, like pepper spray, to stop the violence once it got underway, he said.
"G4S staff tried really hard to quell the fight and were directly engaged until they were overpowered ... overwhelmed by the sheer volume (of juveniles running wild)," Judd said. "We worked as a team. I can't say enough good about the G4S people. The bottom line, let's not forget," he said, "that it was the delinquents that caused (the riot) not DJJ, not G4S."
"Rest assured," Judd said, "there will be a litany of felony charges, including riot, grand theft, assault and burglary. (The perpetrators) cost the tax payer thousands, and thousands and thousands of dollars. They (DJJ) will receive a bill from us when we get the costs figured out. With 75 to 100 deputies and a helicopter (from Polk County alone) it will be a significant cost."
The riot began at about 8:30 p.m. after a basketball game between two groups of juveniles, five from St. Petersburg and five from Orlando. A bet of three "Cup O' Noodles" soup had been wagered. The losing team from St. Pete refused to pay-up. This led to a small fight between the players that grew into a larger fight as young men near the basketball court joined the fray. The noise attracted the attention of boys in the dormitories, many of whom ran outside. It was at this time the situation spun out of control.
A staff radio and all the facilities golf carts were commandered by the rioters Fire extinguishers and television sets were thrown through windows, 18 of the 20 dormitories were completely trashed, Judd said. Juveniles were climbing up onto roof, throwing things over the fence at deputies, and started two fires, one in a dumpster, the other a building housing some kinds of records. Both fires were put out without incident.
The initial 911 call to Polk County dispatch was received at 8:34 p.m.
A calm female voice tells the dispatcher, "we have a riot situation here. We need some assistance here. The juveniles are out of control at this time." In the background a male voice can be heard urgently ordering staff to, "report to your units, I repeat, report to your units, report to your units."
It took deputies about 20 minutes to reach the site because of the distance and round about drive to get to the academy thorough Highlands County.
Judd told reporters the first thing the PCSO did on arrival was secure the perimeter. Some deputies geared up and K-9 units were brought in. Using public address systems in police cruisers, the juveniles were told to stop fighting and come to the front gate. Many boys were not involved in the rioting and most of them came immediately. Eventually all did, but it took several hours before the most disruptive gave up. Every resident juvenile has been accounted for.
"The key," Judd said, "was not to over react." The damage was already done, the perimeter secured, and the law enforcement presence overwhelming. With tear gas and dogs on hand every juvenile was taken peacefully into custody.
Of the 138 juveniles, the 72 suspected of being involved were transported to the PCSO South County Jail in Frostproof -- where they are being held apart from the adult population. The PCSO is merely loaning the building, the suspected rioters are being guarded by G4S employees. The remaining 66 are temporarily being housed in the APYA auditorium, because the dormitories are now uninhabitable.
By the time it was over, about four hours after it began, seven juveniles had sustained injuries, the two most serious a broken leg and a concussion. As of Monday the boy with the broken leg was still in the hospital. Everyone else was treated and released.
Judd said it is unclear if the boy with the broken leg fell off a golf cart, or was run over by it.
One GS4 staff member aggravated an old knee injury when she fell to the ground trying to break up a fight.
The Sheriff said an extensive investigation has begun by a team of eight detectives. APYA has no security cameras, so collecting evidence may take some time.
PCSO (by: The real Montagny - 8/21/2013)
The Youth Academy, APCI, and most of the Air Force Range are located in Polk County.If you drive out East Main Street, you will pass into Polk County about a mile before the entrance to the range.
Open Mouth, Insert Foot (by: Guest - 8/21/2013)
FEES? (by: Polk Taxpayer - 8/21/2013)
So Sheriff Grady Judd is going to bill for responses to 911 calls for crimes of violence! Just another slap in the face to victims.
Violent Youth (by: Frightened - 8/20/2013)
Maybe now people can see why the staff used to whip these wild violent kids at the Dozier School for Boys. Later as some of the former students grew up and looked back on their discipline at the school, they said they deserved it. Now that these there is no real fear of punishment, the kids just destroyed the Avon Park School because the staff's hands are tied, not the kids, the kids hands remain free to violence and destruction.
Riot (by: Rick H - 8/20/2013)
Why did the Polk County Sheriff's Department have to respond to an incident in Highlands County? Were our Deputies on vacation?
Incompetance (by: D. - 8/19/2013)
It sure sounds to me as if the private contractors dropped the ball on this and as such should be held financially and legally responsible. This is what comes of privatizing. This is a white wash, Why should taxpayers be held liable for the incompetence of private contactors, they were paid to do a job and failed miserably.
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