A 14-year-old girl and a 12-year-old boy fled from a Florida juvenile home and broke into a house, where they found a small arsenal — a shotgun, an AK-47 and plenty of ammunition. When confronted by sheriff’s deputies, the pair opened fire, sparking a gunbattle.
The gunfire ceased only after deputies wounded the girl, who was in critical but stable condition Wednesday, a day after the violence unfolded near Deltona, about 30 miles (48 kilometers) northeast of Orlando. The boy then surrendered.
The juveniles fired at deputies from the house multiple times over 45 minutes, a visibly angry Sheriff Mike Chitwood told a news conference Tuesday evening.
“They were traversing the length of that house and opening fire on deputies from different angles,” Chitwood said. “They were out on the pool deck. They shot from the bedroom window. They shot from the garage door.”
Deputies tried to calm the situation and eventually returned fire. The sheriff said it was unlike anything he had seen in 35 years in policing.
“Deputies did everything they could tonight to de-escalate, and they almost lost their lives to a 12-year-old and a 14-year-old,” the sheriff said. “If it wasn’t for their training and their supervision … somebody would have ended up dead.”
Charges were pending against both juveniles. The sheriff’s office released their names, but The Associated Press is not using the names because of their age.
The deputies involved were put on administrative leave pending a review, the Volusia County Sheriff’s Office said.
Staff members at the juvenile home in Deltona reported the pair missing, telling authorities the boy is diabetic and needed insulin every four hours. They said the girl hit a staff member with a stick before running away, a sheriff’s news release said.
As deputies were searching the area around 7:30 p.m., a passerby flagged them down and reported hearing glass breaking at a nearby house.
Deputies saw the pair inside the home and contacted its owner, who said no one was supposed to be at the home. The owner also advised authorities that the guns and 200 rounds of ammunition were inside the home, which the juveniles ransacked, Chitwood said.
Deputies surrounded the house and began talking to the pair. At one point, Chitwood said, a deputy went close enough to the home to toss a cellphone inside to try to talk to them.
The girl eventually came out of the garage with the shotgun and pointed it at deputies. They repeatedly asked her to drop the weapon, Chitwood said. She walked back into the garage.
“She comes back a second time, and that’s when deputies open fire and she takes multiple rounds,” Chitwood said.
Chitwood said the 12-year-old boy, had told investigators that they had planned to “roll like it’s GTA,” referring to the videogame series Grand Theft Auto. The often violent videogame series tracks characters as they rise through a criminal underworld.
In body camera video released Wednesday, a deputy can be seen yelling, “Put the gun down now!” as shots are fired at him repeatedly while he takes cover behind a tree in the yard.
A commander over the radio tells deputies not to challenge them. “Let’s not engage them,” the commander said. “Let’s just hang out here.”
But several minutes later, a barrage of shots echoes across the lawn. “They’re shooting at me,” the deputy says in the video. A little bit later, deputies report that the 14-year-old girl is “down.” Then the 12-year-old boy, who authorities said had been armed with the AK-47, comes outside with his hands raised.
Chitwood said the girl had been in trouble various times over the past year. She was accused of stealing puppies and was put in a halfway home. He said she set fires on half a dozen vacant lots where the flames came close to homes earlier this year and was sent back to Volusia County. He also cited a history of problems at the juvenile home the pair fled.
The AP left a message seeking comment at the juvenile home.