Head of DJJ tours facility that delinquent kids took over during weekend riot

DJJ secretary questions decision by PCSO

AVON PARK, Fla. - The head of the state agency in charge of the juvenile detention center where a riot broke out over the weekend, toured the facility for the first time Tuesday afternoon.

Since mayhem broke out Saturday night at the Avon Park Youth Academy, employees worked long hours to clean-up more than a dozen ransacked buildings.

Workers installed new windows and doors, mopped floors, and applied fresh coats of paint to the damaged buildings.

"It's not what I expected to find, so I'm very relieved and grateful for that," said Wansley Walters, Secretary of the Department of Juvenile Justice.

Walters told reporters she's pleased with the clean-up progress, just three days since the riot.

Reporters got an up-close look at the facility, from the basketball court where the fight of noodles began, to the medical room that looked like a murder scene with fake blood splattered on every wall.

After the tour, Walters questioned the decision by the sheriff's office to evacuate the staff Saturday night as chaos ensued.

"It is not the practice of juvenile justice to leave juveniles without adult supervision," she said.

Walters doesn't believe the staff should have abandoned the kids at any point during the escalating fight.

A sheriff's spokesman said they did not order the staff members to evacuate, because they already left on their own by the time deputies arrived in full riot gear.

One of the 9-1-1 calls backs that up. In the background, an employee is heard saying, "There ain't nothing you can do! Stay out of it! We got the authorities coming!"

Secretary Walters stayed strong on DJJ's policy that doesn't allow staff to carry pepper spray or stun guns. She doesn't think it would have made a difference.

She insists a full review is underway.

"Certainly we want to work with law enforcement and develop the protocols so something like this never ever happens again," she said.

As the clean up continues at the facility, the 70 kids believed to be involved in the riot remain in a jail building on loan by the sheriff.

One of ringleaders has already been charged four felony counts that include starting a riot and grand theft. Charges for the rest of the kids are pending.

DJJ has five more buildings to repair, but anticipates getting the facility back in order still this week.

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