Florida Dept. of Juvenile Justice engaged in ‘cover-up’ after shootout involving 2 children, sheriff says

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VOLUSIA COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) — 8 On Your Side is learning more about the two children involved in a shootout with Florida deputies earlier this month.

Chilling body camera video released by the Volusia County Sheriff’s Office shows a deputy respond to a call involving the two troubled children who ended up firing on him and several other deputies.

One of the shooters is a 14-year old girl who should have been in a secure facility, according to Volusia County Sheriff Michael J. Chitwood. Instead, she and her 12-year old accomplice were in a group home.

At just 14 years old, the girl – who we’re not identifying – had more than 30 prior run-ins with the law. Documents released by the Volusia County Sheriff’s Office show she allegedly stole, destroyed property, kicked, attacked and pulled a knife on various victims.

Two months before the shootout, Sheriff Chitwood says the girl set multiple fires. But instead of being held accountable, he says, she was released.

Eventually, the young woman ended up in an unsecured group home.

The Florida Department of Juvenile Justice told 8 On Your Side a judge is the one who decides who gets released. However, we’ve uncovered there was no judge in this case.

“What the hell is the Department of Juvenile Justice doing sending these kids to places that can’t handle them?” Sheriff Chitwood said during a news conference hours after the shootout. “You really need to be exposing the Department of Juvenile Justice.”

Josefina Tamayo is the acting secretary of the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice. We emailed her and called the DJJ about the sheriff’s claims.

She didn’t respond, but her spokeswoman Amanda Slama did.

Ms. Slama told 8 On Your Side she couldn’t get into specifics, but claimed DJJ did not make this decision.  

Soon after, Sheriff Chitwood responded online.

“When the Department of Juvenile Justice was questioned by a reporter about the kids who opened fire on my deputies, they didn’t want to admit that they cut the 14-year-old loose the last time she was charged with a serious crime,” Sheriff Chitwood wrote on Facebook.

The sheriff wrote that the DJJ had “chosen to lie” instead of telling us the truth.

According to Sheriff Chitwood, the girl “never saw a judge” after setting the fires “because DJJ determined her crimes weren’t serious enough.”

Sheriff Chitwood says this isn’t an isolated case. He’s now calling on the DJJ to accept the fact there is a crisis within the system that should not be covered up.

Deputies say they were under fire for 35 minutes. When the girl pointed a shotgun at them, they say, they were forced to shoot her. She’s stable and recovering.

Both children are facing charges for first-degree attempted murder of a law enforcement officer.

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