Local News

Rioting teens injured at Avon Park detention center

AVON PARK - At least five teens were treated for injuries ranging from cuts to a broken leg after a riot broke out about 10 p.m. Saturday at a male juvenile detention facility. Lt. Curtis Ludden said about a dozen Highlands County deputies responded to Avon Park Youth Academy, along with Polk County deputies, corrections officers, Fish & Wildlife, Florida Department of Law Enforcement, state troopers, at least one Sebring police officer and EMS. "We took about 120 of them into custody," Ludden said. Most were secured with plastic handcuffs and taken to a secure area in the facility. "They weren't trying to escape. They were inside the compound. Some of them were riding around on golf carts and bicycles," Ludden said.
The first juvenile to be taken to the hospital had a severe head laceration, Ludden said. One had a broken leg, other injuries were minor, Ludden said. They were transported by ambulance to Florida Hospital Heartland, escorted by deputies. "When I left at 1 p.m., they still hadn't told us what caused it," Ludden said. Six to eight teens, believed to be the ringleaders, were still being questioned. Polk County Sheriff's Office responded to the Avon Park Youth Academy Saturday night along with SWAT and K-9 teams. It's unclear what started the riot, but authorities say a fire was set in a dumpster. The Department of Juvenile Justice oversees the facility. No staffers were injured during the riot, the Associated Press reported, and Ludden said none of his officers were hurt. According to its website, the facility is a 144-bed moderate-risk program for males in the juvenile justice system between the ages of 16 and 19 years old. Teens are taught job skills and receive mental health and substance abuse treatment. An email to program officials and DJJ was not immediately returned to the Associated Press. gpinnell@highlandstoday.com 863-386-5828