Florida: Riot Breaks Out at Avon Park Youth Academy, at Least Five Injured
A riot that broke out at the Avon Park Youth Academy in Polk County in Florida and left multiple people wounded has been put under control by local law enforcement agencies.
The riot broke out around 8:40 p.m. on August 17 and was responded to by agencies. The riot lasted until about 12:15 a.m.
The Polk County Sheriff’s Office said that the situation has been put under control and none of the juvenile residents escaped.
“Around 5 or 6 residents were transported to local hospitals to be treated for minor injuries. No staff members were injured,” it said. “During the riot, there was a fire set in a dumpster, which was put out.”
One anonymous officer said that one guard at the academy was injured and put the number of injured at 9.
According to scanner traffic cited by the News-Sun, the Florida Hospital and Highlands Regional emergency rooms were at one point “overwhelmed” with patients.
The Youth Academy houses up to 200 males who are ages 16, 17, or 18 and who stay for an average of 270 days. The youth are deemed moderate risk. In order for students to be placed in Avon Park, they must be assessed as being unlikely to return home or to public school upon release detention, and must not have any significant mental health or substance abuse problems. A typical day at the academy includes eight hours of vocational training, a class in independent living and social skills, and home work, according to an article in Reason.
The academy is privately run by Securicor New Century, a private company based out of Richmond, Virginia that operates six similar programs for the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice.
The facility is on 36 acres of land and is surrounded by a 12-foot barbed wire fence. The land was formerly used as staff housing on the United States Air Force bombing range.
The Polk County Sheriff’s Office is investigating the cause of the riot and who participated in it.
The office quelled the riot with help from officers from the SWAT team, K-9 teams, the Avon Park Police Department, the Florida Highway Patrol, and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
Nearby residents said in response to the office’s Facebook post that there were lots of cars with sirens flying past their houses and lots of officers in the area.
Shenley Brashears said on Facebook that neighbors right beside the facility told them about what happened and that it was “insane how many cops were out there!”
Some said there were reports they heard that later appeared untrue.
“I heard there was a building on fire, workers being held hostage, some shot and killed, some escaped and took guns, its all freakin hear say until the source is completely true,” said Stephanie Michelle. “And half the time it aint even all true!”
Others warned people from writing off the facility just because of one riot.
“I have a good friend whos son is in there and doing great,” said Angela Cribbs Arciniega. “They aren’t all thugs.”