June 3 (UPI) — Deputies in Florida shot and injured a 14-year-old girl Tuesday night following a two-hour standoff with police that began when she and a 12-year-old boy escaped from their group home and broke into a house where they armed themselves with guns, officials said.
Volusia County Sheriff Mike Chitwood told reporters that the girl was shot three times, once in the chest, abdomen and arm, and is in stable but critical condition.
“I don’t know what to say,” the sheriff said, visibly angry. “Where have we gone wrong that 12-year-old and 14-year-old think it is 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?”
The incident began at about 5 p.m. when the children escaped their group home, which Chitwood described as “a complete failure and disgrace to the juvenile justice system in the state of Florida,” prompting the Florida United Methodist Children’s Home to report them missing.
Deputies, learning that the boy is a severe diabetic requiring insulin every four hours, searched for the children and were flagged down at 7:30 p.m. by a bystander who directed them to a residence where glass had been broken, the sheriff’s office said in a statement.
The homeowners were then contacted and told the officers that an AK-47, a pump shotgun, a handgun and 200 rounds of ammunition were inside, prompting them to surround the house and attempt to deescalate the situation, Chitwood said.
“We threw a cell phone into the house to try and talk to them,” he said.
At about 8:30 p.m., the girl exited the house and opened fire at a sergeant out of a back patio door.
The sheriff’s office Wednesday released nearly 9 minutes of video of the incident captured on body-worn cameras of officers and from a helicopter circling the house.
The officer hid behind a tree on the property as the pop of shots is heard.
“Don’t make me do this. Don’t do this,” the officer is heard saying under his breath as he points his firearm at the house from behind a tree.
This is the tree that provided cover for our deputy who came under fire from two children yesterday. The best tree in Volusia County as far as I’m concerned pic.twitter.com/s2nfphNvVV— Mike Chitwood (@SheriffChitwood) June 2, 2021
Over the next 35 minutes, the children fired at deputies four separate times, authorities said.
“They are not met with gunfire once. They are not met with gunfire twice. They are met with gunfire multiple times,” Chitwood said.
At about 8:40 p.m. the girl exited the garage, leveled the pump shotgun at the deputies before going back into the residence.
When she came out a second time, deputies opened fire and then began to perform life-saving measures.
“Deputies did everything they could tonight to deescalate and they almost lost their lives to a 12-year-old and a 14-year-old,” Chitwood said. “If it wasn’t for their training and their supervision like I said earlier I would have walked right into that house.”
The 12-year-old boy holding a firearm was confronted by deputies in the garage and dropped the weapon, he said.
On Wednesday, Chitwood told reporters during a press conference that the girl was still alive due to the life-saving measures taken by his deputies.
He said the boy was interviewed and told police that the girl had remarked when police arrived that she was “gonna roll this down like GTA,” referring to the popular video game series “Grand Theft Auto.”
Chitwood said he told detectives “he knew they were cops when he shot at them cause he wanted to harm them. These are the words of a 12-year-old who knew exactly what was going on.”
The boy, he said, had no police record but had been in foster care since 2016. He also made two threats this year at school: one to hurl a break at an administrator and the other five days later to kill a student and “spread his guts all over the bleachers.” Both actions received a three-day suspension.
The girl was arrested for stealing puppies in 2018 and on April 9 set five fires in a wooded lot that threatened several homes, he said.
Chitwood railed against the juvenile justice system generally and the Florida United Methodist Children’s Home specifically, saying police had been called to the residence 280 times last year and 89 times this year.
“This is what the issue is: We are arresting these kids in the state of Florida for violent crimes and then the department of juvenile justice wants to put them in the places that can’t handle them,” he said. “And if we remember Fumch, not too long ago, less than a month, an employee lost their life when a 15-year-old with violent behavior and violent tendencies hit the guy in the head twice.”
“The juvenile justice system is broke,” he said. “People need to face facts.”