Update June 8:
14-year-old out of hospital
Enterprise Children’s Home pauses emergency program after runaways engage in shootout with deputies
The Florida United Methodist Children’s Home in Enterprise announced June 2 that it will halt its emergency shelter-care program for 30 days after a 12-year-old and a 14-year-old ran away from the home in Enterprise and brandished stolen weapons in a standoff with Volusia Sheriff’s deputies.
Deputies fired on the 14-year-old after she fired a shotgun at them, Volusia County Sheriff Mike Chitwood said. As of June 8, she has been released from the hospital and had a first court appearance via Zoom. The girl will be held in secure detention for 21 days from June 2, with another hearing scheduled for June 23.
The 12-year-old was arrested June 3 and will remain in secure detention for 21 days from June 2, or until the next court action.
Florida United Methodist Children’s Home Director of Marketing and Communications Mark Cobia issued a statement June 2 about the incident.
“This situation is tragic and is the result of the system failing our children,” Cobia said. “These children are in desperate need of care in the appropriate setting, which is a higher level of care than we provide.”
The Methodist Children’s Home said once the 30-day suspension is over, the agency will determine whether it can continue to reopen and operate the emergency shelter-care program safely.
According to Cobia, the program is currently serving three children, and the volume of children being sent for emergency shelter care is “beyond the scope of our capabilities to provide the care required, and limits who we can serve as part of our mission.”
Chitwood released a statement June 4 again condemning the Department of Juvenile Justice, but praising the decision by the Children’s Home to suspend emergency shelter care.
“The Florida United Methodist Children’s Home did the right thing after this week’s shooting,” he said. “They owned up to the failures of our system and announced they will no longer be housing emergency-shelter children like those cut loose by DJJ.”
The Florida Department of Law Enforcement is investigating the incident.
Update 5 p.m., June 2:
Sheriff shares details about gunfight with youths
Volusia County Sheriff Mike Chitwood spoke to members of the news media today to update the story of two youths who exchanged gunfire with deputies last night, June 1.
The 14-year-old who was shot by deputies was described by Chitwood as being in “critical but stable condition at Arnold Palmer [Hospital for Children].”
The 12-year-old, who surrendered after deputies shot his companion, has been arrested on felony charges of attempted first-degree murder of a law enforcement officer, and armed burglary.
The Sheriff’s Office is poised to arrest the 14-year-old on the same charges.
Chitwood also clarified an incorrect comment he made at a press conference after the incident June 1, that the 14-year-old had been arrested previously for “burning a home to the ground.” Her arrest, he clarified, was for “setting six lots on fire,” which “almost engulfed nearby homes.”
According to Chitwood, it is unclear whether the youths were aware the home they broke into while evading deputies was stocked with weapons, but he thinks the pair believed they were breaking into the home of a deputy, because of a “prominently displayed” award presented to the homeowner by the Brevard County Sheriff’s Office.
The two “ransacked” the house, Chitwood said, and found firearms and ammo, which were stored in various locations inside the residence.
According to Chitwood, the 12-year-old later told the Sheriff’s Office that when deputies arrived, the 14-year-old told him they were “going to roll this down like GTA,” in reference to the popular Grand Theft Auto video-game series.
Chitwood said he believes more than 2,000 shots were fired at deputies between the three firearms the youngsters wielded — an AK-47, a shotgun and a handgun. Eight deputies fired back some 60 rounds on the youths, the sheriff said.
The incident is being investigated by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, and all eight deputies who fired their weapons are on administrative leave.
Chitwood praised the work of the deputies, saying how proud he was of them. He continued to criticize the Florida Legislature, which he said needed to “get off its ass” on the matter of juvenile justice statewide. He also continued his criticism of organizations like FAITH that focus on restorative justice aimed at rehabilitating young people charged with crimes.
Restorative justice, Chitwood said, is “getting people killed.”
“Anybody that sits back and that tells you we’re a model in the state of Florida; we’re a failure in the state of Florida just like any other state that embarks on this measure,” Chitwood told members of the media. “We’re not saying that we don’t believe in a holistic approach to juvenile crime, absolutely, positively. But when you have somebody who wants to do big-boy crimes or big-girl crimes, then treat them accordingly.”
One teen is in critical condition and a 12-year-old is in custody after the pair broke into a house, stole firearms and exchanged gunfire with law enforcement officers in Enterprise June 1, the Sheriff’s Office said.
Sheriff Mike Chitwood said a 12-year-old and a 14-year-old ran away from Florida United Methodist Children’s Home in Enterprise around 5 p.m. June 1. After they were reported missing, deputies in the Deltona area began searching for the two children.
Deputies were especially concerned about the 12-year-old, Chitwood said, because he has a severe form of diabetes that requires him to take insulin every four hours.
Deputies remained on the trail of the juveniles for some time before locating them.
“Every time the deputies encounter these two little desperados, they run from us,” Chitwood told members of the media at a late-night press conference in Enterprise June 1.
Around 7:30 p.m., Chitwood said, deputies were alerted to sounds of glass breaking at a home at 1050 Enterprise Osteen Road. As they neared the house, Chitwood said, deputies saw signs of forced entry, and called the homeowners to determine whether anyone may have access to the home.
The homeowners informed deputies, Chitwood said, that no one should be home, and also that there were three firearms inside — an AK-47, a pump shotgun and a handgun — along with some 200 rounds of ammunition.
“As deputies are surrounding the home and trying to establish a rapport,” Chitwood said, “they’re met with gunfire.”
According to Chitwood, between 7:30 and 9 p.m. deputies were met with gunfire and threats a number of times. An entire AK-47 magazine, Chitwood said, was emptied.
Seeking cover behind trees, he said, deputies fired back when the 14-year-old, armed with the pump shotgun, stepped out for a second time and leveled the weapon at deputies.
Around 9 p.m. according to Chitwood, deputies fired on the 14-year-old several times, wounding her in the chest, the abdomen and the arm. As of 11 p.m.Tuesday she was “fighting for her life” in the hospital, per Chitwood.
While some deputies approached the wounded 14-year-old to apply emergency care, others engaged with the 12-year-old, who was armed with the AK-47. He promptly dropped the weapon, according to Chitwood, and was detained.
No deputies were injured, Chitwood said.
“They took rounds, multiple, multiple rounds, before they were left with no other choice but to return fire,” he said, later adding, “They put their own lives on the line to have it not end up the way it did. I can’t imagine what’s going through … their hearts tonight after having to shoot a 14-year-old.”
During the press conference regarding the incident, Chitwood took aim at the state’s juvenile justice system, legislators and organizations that advocate for young delinquents, including FAITH, an alliance of spiritual leaders.
“I don’t know what to say. Where have we gone wrong that [a] 12-year-old and 14-year-old think it’s OK to take on law enforcement? What the hell is the Department of Juvenile Justice doing sending these kids to places that can’t handle them?” Chitwood said.
He later added, “This juvenile-citation bullshit that you hear from these FAITH groups; they need to worry what’s going on at their pulpit in their church, not worrying about what’s going on on the goddamn streets when you have 14-year-olds and 12-year-olds arming themselves.”
According to the sheriff, deputies were called to the Enterprise children’s home 289 times in 2020.
The Sheriff’s Office identified the youths, but The Beacon is not using their names because of their ages.
The information provided about the incident was preliminary, Chitwood told the news media, and was based on radio chatter and information from deputies. More information, including body-camera footage, is to be released today, June 2.
This is a developing story and more information will be posted as it becomes available.