Want the best of VICE News straight to your inbox? Sign up here.
A 14-year-old girl was left fighting for her life and a 12-year-old boy was taken to the hospital following a shootout with police after the two kids found a cache of weapons at a home in Florida.
The kids had escaped from a children’s group home when they came across an empty home in Volusia County. There, the children found several firearms, including an AK-47 assault rifle, a pump-action shotgun, and 200 rounds of ammunition, Sheriff Mike Chitwood said at a press conference Tuesday.
Police went to the home after someone nearby heard glass shattering.
The two kids refused to come out, and remained in the house for an hour, until the 14-year-old fired the shotgun at deputies at around 8:30 p.m., according to police. The boy shot at authorities as well.
The resulting shootout between the two kids and deputies lasted around 35 minutes. The children fired at the cops on four different occasions, according to police. The 14-year-old girl was shot by police three times. The boy, who was holding the AK-47, eventually dropped the weapon and was taken to the hospital as well, without major injuries.
Chitwood said officers tried to reason with the two kids, and threw them a cellphone in an attempt to negotiate terms.
The Volusia County Sheriff’s Department released body camera and infrared chopper camera footage of the incident Wednesday. In the video, an officer can be seen taking cover behind a tree as night falls, and gun shots can be heard coming from inside the house. Eventually, officers exchange fire with the girl, who appears to fire one round from a shotgun before she is shot by police. The 12-year-old boy, who had previously fired at police, can be seen staggering out from the garage of the house moments later, with his hands up in the driveway as the chopper circles above.
Once the boy is taken by police, officers run up to the girl, who was slumped behind a car in the driveway, and administer first aid. The 14-year-old can be heard sobbing, and at one point calls out for her “mommy.”
After she was wounded by police, the 14-year-old was taken to a nearby hospital and was “fighting for her life,” according to Chitwood. She is now reportedly in stable condition. She had previously been arrested for allegedly stealing a dog when she was 11-years-old in 2018, according to an incident report obtained by VICE News. The girl allegedly asked neighbors for dogs, electronics, and food on numerous occasions. The incident report says the girl “stated she took the dog because she loves animals.”
She was sentenced to time in a halfway house, but reportedly set it on fire on April 10, shortly after arriving, according to the Orlando Sentinel.
At Tuesday’s press conference, Chitwood condemned the juvenile justice system.
“Where have we gone wrong, that a 12-year-old and a 14-year-old think it’s OK to take on law enforcement?” Chitwood said. “What the hell is the Department of Juvenile Justice doing, sending these kids to places that can’t handle them?”
Chitwood further used the incident to berate juvenile restorative justice in the state, a type of community-focused justice system in which the emphasis is on repairing harm done rather than punishing the offender with isolation. The sheriff suggested that those who support it should do a ride-along with cops.
“Somewhere along the line the brainiacs in Tallahassee that want to do this restorative justice stuff, they need to take a deep look and say something’s not right here,” Chitwood said. “Because where the rubber meets the road, these kids are killers.”
The sheriff added that the two children were previously in foster care, but said he had “no sympathy” for them, at one point calling them “thugs.”
“You’ll have people out there that think little Johnny, if he got his head patted on a little more more, this wouldn't happen, or if Janie if someone hugged her and kissed her, this wouldn’t have happened,” Chitwood said. “They don’t want to understand that there’s evil in the world, and I can’t explain why a 12- or 14-year-old are evil.”
This article has been updated throughout to reflect recent developments.