More than 60 juveniles face charges in violent youth detention center riot

LAKELAND - More than 60 troubled teens who investigators say are responsible for the riot last month at a youth detention center, now face rioting and felony criminal mischief charges.

The riot occurred at the Department of Juvenile Justice's Avon Park Youth Academy on the evening of August 17th.

Hundreds of officers and deputies responded after the kids overtook the facility, causing mass chaos and destruction.

"They had totally, totally trashed the place," said Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd.

The sheriff announced the charges today for 61 kids involved in the fight. ABC Action News is not identifying them because they're under 18.

Some face additional charges in the riot that started over a basketball game and three cups of noodles.

Judd also had harsh words for DJJ, saying all of it -- including the injuries to eight kids -- could have been prevented if the agency would allow its contracted security team to carry pepper spray and riot gear.

"They think it's totally inappropriate to use pepper spray, that's what they believe. They call it best practices. I call it getting caught between the world of denial and academia," Judd told reporters.

Meghan Speakes Collins, DJJ spokesman, said some policies could change after the state's investigation is complete, but definitely not the use of chemical agents.

"The secretary made it very clear that she has no intentions of changing the agency's policy of pepper spray and tasers," she said.

The sheriff said his department will send DJJ a bill for its massive response that night because they won't guards to have the tools to handle it on their own.

"To me, if you're not going to give them the tools on the front end to deal with the issue, and we have to come in and deal with it, then you're going to pay with it on the back end," he said.

For now, the 61 kids that will face charges remain at the Avon Park Youth Academy.

Sheriff Grady Judd is recommending they be charged as adults.

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