DJJ secretary downplays Avon Park damage - FOX 13 News

DJJ secretary downplays Avon Park damage

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After touring the Avon Park Youth Academy and seeing the broken windows and destroyed property, Florida's secretary of juvenile justice says she would not have wanted the overwhelmed staff to have been armed in any way.

"It is not the best practice of juvenile justice to provide pepper spray or Tasers and we won't have that," she insisted.

It flies in the face of Sheriff's Grady Judd's suggestion that pepper spray or Tasers might have stopped the fight that grew out of a bet on a basketball game and turned into the trashing of many of the buildings -- what Judd called a riot.

"We received a call a frantic call saying, 'Send help, send all the help you can, we got a riot,'" he recalled. "As we all arrived at the scene, that's what we found, a riot…we ended up with a riot and tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of dollars' worth of damage.'

But in an afternoon press conference, Secretary Walters wouldn't join the sheriff in classifying it as a riot, and said one of her main concerns is that the juveniles were left "unsupervised" when the privately contracted, unarmed staff was evacuated when deputies arrived.

"We're curious to know what the sheriff saw that caused them to evacuate," she wondered.

The secretary described the aftermath as vandalism, not serious damage. But who will pay for it, and could it happen again?

Walters says this facility is one of the few in the state not yet equipped with surveillance cameras. She says plans were already in the works to get them but she couldn't say when. And would prevent kids here from doing it again?

"I'm not sure there are kids here who want to do it again," she replied.

She says the facility is geared to teach vocational trades like plumbing and solar technology to kids who are not high-risk, to rehabilitate them so they don't end up in state prison later. She says this is the first time anything like this has happened.

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