The following is a preliminary outline of what occurred on Saturday, August 17, 2013, at the Department of Juvenile Justice’s Avon Park Youth Academy, which is located in unincorporated Polk County at the Avon Park Air Force Range (on SR 64 East in Polk County). All of the juveniles housed there are male. This facility is maintained by the Department of Juvenile Justice, and the security personnel who work here work for G4S, a private company contracted by the DJJ:
Around 8:30 p.m. – A fight broke out at the facility between two groups of juvenile delinquents just after a basketball game. A group of five juveniles from St. Pete were playing basketball against a group of five juveniles from Orlando. The wager for the game was three packages of instant noodles – the losing team agreed to give the winning team this food. The losing team, the juveniles from St. Pete, refused to pay, and a fight broke out between the two groups. Other juveniles who were not playing basketball joined the affray, and a riot broke out.
The staff who works at the facility, G4S employees, called 911 and requested assistance from the Polk County Sheriff’s Office. The 911 call was received at 8:34 p.m.
PCSO units arrived on-scene and established a perimeter. They were assisted by officers from the following agencies: Department of Corrections; State Fire Marshal's Office; Florida Fish and Wildlife; Florida Highway Patrol; Highlands County Sheriff’s Office; Sebring Police Department; Osceola County Sheriff's Office; Polk Fire and EMS. Approximately 150 law enforcement officers (LEOs) arrived on-scene.
All of the remaining G4S staff members (about eight of them) who had retreated to a house near the entry gate were evacuated from the compound and the LEO’s on-scene secured each juvenile with flex-cuffs and escorted them out of the riot area. No staff members or law enforcement officers were injured.
A total of seven juveniles were transported to Florida Hospital in Sebring with various minor injuries. The most serious injury was a broken leg. The other injuries consisted of bruises, lower back pain, lacerations, and one concussion.
There are 138 juveniles housed at the detention facility. All 138 are accounted for:
One is at the hospital with a broken leg.
64 juveniles have been transported to the PCSO South County Jail in Frostproof in state custody under the supervision of G4S. They are separated by sight and sound from adult inmates.
The remaining 73 juveniles are secured at the Avon Park Youth Academy.
During the riot, none of the juveniles escaped from the secured compound.
A staff radio and all of the staff golf carts were taken by the juveniles.
During the riot, at least 18 of the 20 buildings were damaged.
During the riot, one office building containing the delinquents’ records was set on fire, and one dumpster was set on fire. Polk Fire extinguished both fires without incident.
There is no video surveillance footage of the riot. There are no security cameras at the facility.
By rule, the G4S employees are not allowed to have any specialty equipment, to include pepper spray, which would have allowed them to deal with the fight before it escalated into a riot.
PCSO detectives are conducting an investigation into which of the delinquents will be charged with multiple felonies. The investigation is ongoing. G4S and the DJJ have been totally cooperative during this incident and ensuing investigation.