In announcing charges against 61 juveniles, Sheriff Grady Judd is making his case for why the Avon Park Youth Academy was unprepared for the riot that unfolded there last month.
"These 61 aren't misguided children; these 61 are hardcore thugs that were incarcerated by the Department of Juvenile Justice," he stated.
Judd spoke for more than 30 minutes about the event and his ensuing disagreement with the DJJ Secretary Wansley Waters over Judd's use of the term "riot."
The sheriff questioned DJJ's policy against using pepper spray at the facility, insisting that its use could have prevented the entire uprising, which started as a fight over a basketball game bet.
It was back on August 17th when a postgame fight turned into a larger uprising. Some of the juveniles lit fires, pulled fire alarms, and caused thousands of dollars of damage before deputies were called in to restore order.
"They probably took or damaged $20,000 worth of medicine. There was a $12,000 copier they destroyed. So there's $32,000 in damages," Judd said. "Labor costs for that night alone are between $30,000 and $40,000."
The total damage estimate reached $350,000, Judd said.
The sheriff also said some of those charged were gang members, with a total of over 900 previous criminal charges between them -- suggesting that they should not have been housed in the facility.
"There were some really hardcore thugs, in with the normal thugs, in with some kids," he added.
FOX 13 / WTVT-TV
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