A 12-Year-Old Boy and 14-Year-Old Girl Broke Into a Home, Found Weapons and Opened Fire on Deputies, Sheriff Says

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Deputies in Volusia County, Florida, shot a 14-year-old girl on Tuesday night after she and a 12-year-old boy broke into a home, found multiple guns inside, and then opened fire on deputies, according to Volusia County Sheriff Mike Chitwood.

The girl was shot in the abdomen and the arm and is fighting for her life in the hospital, while the boy surrendered and was not injured, Chitwood said.

“I don’t know what to say. Where have we gone wrong that a 12-year-old and 14-year-old think it’s okay to take on law enforcement?” he said.

According to Chitwood, the children ran away from their group home at Florida United Methodist Children’s Home (FUMCH) around 5 p.m. Tuesday and evaded police for hours. At about 7:30 p.m., a passerby told deputies he heard glass breaking at a home nearby, and deputies found there had been a forced entry into the home, according to the sheriff’s office.

Deputies contacted the homeowner, who said that nobody should be home and that there was a handgun, pump shotgun, and an AK-47 inside, as well as a large amount of ammunition, the sheriff’s office said.

As deputies surrounded the home and tried to establish a rapport with the boy and girl, they were met with gunfire, the sheriff said. The sheriff’s office said the children fired at deputies on four separate occasions over about 35 minutes.

At one point, the 14-year-old girl emerged from the home and threatened to kill Sgt. Donnie Maxwell, Chitwood said.

“We try to deescalate, we throw a cell phone into the house to try to talk to them. The 14-year-old comes out of the garage with a pump shotgun, levels it at deputies, and despite warnings to drop it, she walks back into the garage. She comes back a second time, and that’s when deputies open fire,” said Chitwood.

He said officers took multiple rounds of gunfire before “they were left with no other choice but to return fire.” The officers had nowhere to hide but behind trees, he said.

After the girl was shot, the boy, who had been armed with an AK-47, surrendered to deputies, according to the sheriff’s office.

At least eight deputies were involved in the incident, the sheriff’s office said, and body-camera footage is expected to be released on Wednesday.

In his press conference, Chitwood praised his officers for their restraint in the face of waves of gunfire.

“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,” he said. “If it wasn’t for their training and their supervision … somebody would have ended up dead.”

He also denounced the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice in particularly harsh terms, calling the department a “failure” and a “fraud.” The sheriff’s office said it handled close to 300 calls at the FUMCH in 2020.

“The 14-year-old was arrested for stealing dogs, for larceny, she then got teen court, and was sentenced to a halfway house in Flagler County,” he said. “She burned that halfway house down on April 10 of 2021 and the Department of Juvenile Justice placed her in Florida United Methodist Children’s Home.”

The FUMCH did not respond to a request for comment. The Department of Juvenile Justice did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement is investigating the officers’ use of force at the request of the Volusia County Sheriff’s Office, according to FDLE spokeswoman Gretl Plessinger. The FDLE will examine the facts of what happened, develop a timeline, and then provide information to the state attorney, who will make a determination about whether the use of force was justified, she said.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said Wednesday his office is looking into the incident.

“Obviously, it is a really problematic situation to have that,” he said.

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