When 12-Year-Olds Take On Law Enforcement Does This Mean That Florida's Juvenile System Is Broken?

Ash Jurberg

Photo by Sean Lee on Unsplash

Yesterday two children in Florida ran away from Florida United Methodist Children's Home and broke into a house in Enterprise, Florida. The 12-year-old boy and14-year-old girl found guns inside the house and engaged in a shootout with law enforcement officers. 

The girl was shot after she pointed a gun at deputies and was taken to hospital. The boy eventually put down his weapon, an AK-47, and was not hurt.

 In Florida and across the United States, we are sadly becoming used to shootings, but this case seemed particularly tragic. The Volusia County sheriff's office seemed to sum it up perfectly below.

"I don't know what to say. Where have we gone wrong that a 12-year-old and 14-year-old think it's OK to take on law enforcement?" Sheriff Mike Chitwood

Chitwood was rightly furious at the situation that threatened officers' lives as well as to ask where have we gone wrong?

Who is to blame?

Neighbors heard glass being broken at the home and called deputies. When officers surrounded the house, gunfire broke out from the house. The house had a large amount of ammunition, including a gun, a shotgun, and the AK-47. The shootout lasted thirty-five minutes.

Nine minutes of edited video footage were released on Wednesday by the sheriff's office from the siege. It is terrifying to see how young and physically small these children are. The boy was less than 5 feet tall and weighed just 78 pounds. Yet, they had no hesitation in aiming at the police.

"She's pointing the gun. She's pointing the gun behind the trash can." Audio from the rleease footage

Sheriff Mike Chitwood didn't hesitate in pointing the blame. In a press conference, he blasted Florida's juvenile justice system as being broken. Chitwood said that the group homes were not trained to handle violent offenders, and the 14-year-old girl involved in this shooting should not have been placed in the home.

What the hell is the Department of Juvenile Justice doing, sending these kids to places that can’t handle them? We talk about Juvenile Justice reform? Deputies did everything they could tonight to de-escalate and they almost lost their lives to a 12-year-old and a 14-year-old. If it wasn’t for their training and their supervision … somebody would’ve ended up dead " Sheriff Mike Chitwood

Teens committing crimes

This isn't the first time a 14-year-old has committed a heinous crime in Florida.

This week, Aiden Fucci is being charged as an adult with first-degree murder in the brutal stabbing of 13-year-old Tristyn Bailey. Initially, he was charged with second-degree murder, but due to the nature of the crime, R.J. Larizza, state attorney for the 7th Judicial Circuit, upgraded the charge,

Fucci is alleged to have stabbed Bailey 114 times.

"To say that it was horrific could arguably be made as an understatement." R.J. Larizza, state attorney for the 7th Judicial Circuit

Is it our juvenile system?

The two young children have had difficult childhoods and have they have previously committed or threatened violence.

The 14-year-old was arrested for stealing puppies when she was just eleven and was charged for allegedly setting fires that were extremely close to homes in April.

While the 12-year-old does not have a criminal record, he was suspended from school in April after threatening to throw a brick at an administrator as well as threatening to “kill a student … and spread his guts all over the bleachers.” During the shootout with police, he was quoted as saying, "I’m going to roll this down like GTA,” a reference to the Grand Theft Auto video franchise.

The boy has been in foster care since 2016, while the girl has been kept in the same home despite her criminal behavior.

“This young lady needs a lot of help and since [the Department of Juvenile Justice] released her back into the same environment that allowed this behavior, I hope she does not do it again and instead gets the help she needs,” Rick Staly, the Flagler County sheriff said in April after her arson charge.

Is it Florida's system? Does the blame lay with the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice?

The department called the incident tragic but passed the buck. “As an agency, we serve alongside the various partners that make up Florida’s juvenile justice system, including law enforcement, the courts, state attorneys, and community providers to hold youth accountable for their actions,” they said in a statement.

It seems the troubled juveniles of Florida need more care and a betting setting that is currently being provided, or these crimes will keep occurring.

Hopefully, Florida can work on this as it looks like the current system is broken. What do readers think? What should the state be doing to prevent these situations from occurring?

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