12 and 14-yr-old Florida juveniles, escape facility, end up in shootout with cops

A Florida sheriff took the state’s juvenile justice system to task after a pair of youths escaped from a detention facility and engaged in a shootout with his deputies, leaving one of them critically wounded.

Volusia County Sheriff Mike Chitwood made his comments to reporters as a 14-year-old girl was “fighting for her life” after she and another 12-year-old boy engaged in a shoot-out with his deputies.

Chitwood said the two youths had escaped from a juvenile holding facility and broke into an empty home in Osteen, which is located within the county. There they discovered three guns and about 200 rounds of ammunition.

As deputies closed in, the pair opened fire several times before the girl, who was armed with a shotgun, was struck and wounded, said Chitwood. Shortly thereafter, the younger boy dropped an AK-47-style rifle he held before giving up.

Samantha Sosa of FOX35 in Orlando reported on Twitter that the girl was “fighting for her life” in an area hospital.

“Sheriff Chitwood says 8 deputies did everything they could to end the situation peacefully. They say the 14 y/o would not drop her weapon and deputies were forced to shoot. She is fighting for her life at Central FL regional,” she wrote.

In a follow-up tweet that included a short video clip of the sheriff addressing reporters, she wrote that “Chitwood had some sharp words for the juvenile justice system” after the “kids reportedly ran away from Florida United Methodist Children’s home.”

At the news conference, the sheriff blasted the juvenile justice system, which he said failed the youths.

Chitwood explained that the 12-year-old is an insulin-dependent diabetic who fled the detention center with the 14-year-old around 5 p.m. Tuesday. The girl, he said, stood accused of stealing puppies and then allegedly setting another detention facility afire before being transferred to the Volusia County site.

“I don’t know what to say,” Chitwood noted. “Where have we gone wrong, that a 12-year-old and a 14-year-old think it’s okay to take on law enforcement?

“What the hell is the Department of Juvenile Justice doing, sending these kids to places that can’t handle them?” he continued.

“We talk about Juvenile Justice reform? Deputies did everything they could tonight to de-escalate and they almost lost their lives to a 12-year-old and a 14-year-old. If it wasn’t for their training and their supervision … somebody would’ve ended up dead,” Chitwood continued.

Laying out the scenario, Chitwood told reporters that deputies set out to find the youngsters because they knew the 12-year-old could lapse into a medical emergency due to his diabetes. He said around 7:30 p.m. or so two deputies were contacted by a witness who heard glass breaking inside a home, leading the witness to suspect it had been broken into.

But instead of entering the home right away, deputies contacted the owner, who informed them that there were three guns inside along with a small cache of ammo.

Shortly thereafter, Chitwood said his deputies came under fire around 8:28 p.m. but added they did not immediately return fire. There was more gunfire minutes later.

Deputies managed to toss a cellphone into the home in the hopes the youths would use it so officers could try to convince them to come out of the house peacefully.

But around 8:40 p.m., Chitwood said the girl came out armed with a shotgun and threatened to kill the officers, but she was eventually shot herself.

The boy came out moments later holding the rifle but dropped it and was taken into custody.

Jon Dougherty

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