MIAMI (AP) - Male teens at a juvenile detention facility destroyed several buildings and sparked two fires during a riot, injuring seven people, authorities said Sunday.
Eighteen of the 20 buildings at Avon Park Youth Academy were destroyed, causing hundreds of thousands of dollars in damage. Rioters confiscated a guard's radio on Saturday night and all of the staff golf carts, and set fire to a building containing the teens' records. A trash bin was also set ablaze, according to Polk County Sheriff's officials.
The riots started after a group of teens from St. Petersburg were playing a basketball game against a group of teens from Orlando. The winning team had to give the losers three cups of soup, but the losing team refused and a fight broke out. Other teens that weren't involved in the game joined the melee, sheriff's officials said.
Staff are forbidden from using specialty equipment, including pepper spray, which would have allowed them to deal with the fight before it escalated, authorities said.
Seven teens were transported to Florida Hospital in Sebring with minor injuries, ranging from a broken leg to cuts and a concussion. No staffers or law enforcement officials were injured.
Avon Park Youth Academy is a 144-bed, moderate-risk program for males in the juvenile justice system between the ages of 16 and 19 years old. It's a non-secure facility, meaning youth are not confined to their rooms during the day. They are allowed to move about without handcuffs or shackles for activities, while accompanied by staff at all times. Teens are taught job skills and receive mental health and substance abuse treatment, according to a spokeswoman from the Department of Juvenile Justice.
The agency runs the facility, but contracts the security guards and staff with the private company G4S.
Roughly 150 law enforcement officials, including K-9 units, SWAT team and air support, eventually forced the juveniles to surrender. The staff was evacuated from the compound and the teens were handcuffed and escorted out of the riot area. Authorities said no juveniles escaped during the riot and the remaining 73 teens were secured at Avon Park.
Sixty-four teens were transferred to a county jail in Frostproof in state custody under the supervision of G4S. They are separated from adult inmates, authorities said.
There are no security cameras at the facility, so authorities don't have surveillance video of the riots but detectives said they are investigating which teens will be charged with multiple felonies.
"Once law enforcement officials have completed their investigation, DJJ will conduct a thorough internal review to enhance safeguards that provide for the safety of youth and staff in Florida's juvenile justice facilities," DJJ spokeswoman Meghan Speakes Collins said in a statement.
She said this was the first incident of this magnitude at the facility.
The facility has three shifts, with the night shift having the lowest staff-to-juvenile ratio. DJJ officials said 21 employees were at the facility when the riot started.
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