Eleven arrested after riot at Hernando juvenile facility

BROOKSVILLE, Fla. (WFLA) — It looks like 11 inmates at the Eckerd Youth Camp in Brooksville will be spending even more time behind bars, after they were charged with inciting a riot.

The juveniles were arrested after a brawl late Saturday night that injured one person. Law enforcement officers almost used shotgun bean bags to control the youthful offenders.

“It was apparent that the staff had lost control of the facility,” a Hernando County Sheriff’s Office deputy wrote in an arrest affidavit.

It was “complete chaos,” said sheriff’s office spokeswoman Denise Maloney. “They tried to get one pod under control at a time, getting everyone just to lay on the ground and getting one pod under control and move to the next and then one pod would become uncontrollable again.”

Trouble begins

The sheriff’s office learned about problems at the facility around 9:30 p.m. on Saturday when staff received a hang-up call from the Eckerd Youth Camp, located at 201 Culbreath Road.

The Eckerd Youth Camp is a locked facility where juveniles are court-ordered to serve their sentences.

The 911 operator called back and the staff said there was a physical fight underway with multiple inmates involved. The staff said the inmates were trying to break into other parts of the locked facility.

The staff also told the 911 operator the inmates had been able to force their way into another pod and were fighting other residents.

Staff said they tried to place the facility into lock down, however, no one was listing and the inmates were still fighting. “Less lethal” shot guns were authorized to be taken out by the responding supervisors.

Deputies arrived at the facility and multiple inmates began running everywhere.  Deputies entered the first dorm and found inmates yelling and screaming. The inmates were not following staff members’ orders.

Deputies ordered everyone to lay on the ground, but the inmates ignored the order. A deputy then took out his pepper spray and ordered everyone on the ground. The inmates then laid next to their bunks.

Once the inmates laid down, deputies could see items that had been thrown everywhere.

Deputies then went to the next dorm and everyone there was up and yelling. It appeared they wanted to physically fight, deputies said.

Deputies ordered everyone to lay on the ground, but the inmates ignored the order. Deputies repeated the order, and the inmates laid down.

At that point, a deputy looked over and could could see that the inmates in the first dorm were again at the windows and it looked like they were trying to get out.

A deputy ran back to the first dorm and ordered everyone on the ground.

As backup units arrived, deputies were able to gain control of the facility and had everyone laying on the ground.

The shift supervisor, Warren Hamer, told deputies that several inmates started to fight with each other. Hamer said he contacted the sheriff’s office for help and when they arrived about 30 inmates were still fighting each other, trying to break property and trying gain access to other locked parts of the facility.

Hamer provided the names of 11 inmates who were most responsible for fighting and who were encouraging others to fight. He said they were unable to maintain control of the facility due to the activity of the inmates he named.

One inmate was injured and was transported to a hospital before he was booked at the jail.

Officials respond after altercation

Eckerd officials issued this statement: “We have taken steps to support the operation of the facility, including appropriate measures to ensure a safe and secure environment.”

The Sheriff’s office said it could have been much worse. “We are happy that no one was injured, none of the deputies were injured. We did have a timely response getting the proper amount of deputies out there and getting the situation under control without anyone becoming injured,” Maloney said.

Investigators still don’t know what sparked the disturbance. All 11 teens arrested are facing inciting a riot charges and have been removed from the facility

A former law enforcement officer from New York state said deputies took the correct action.

“What they did is they are avoiding hurting the kids. They controlled the situation with the least aggressive means they could possibly use,” George Slowleigh said.

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