VOLUSIA COUNTY, Fla. – The Volusia County Sheriff’s Office released body camera video on Wednesday showing a sergeant hiding behind a tree as two juvenile suspects fired at him with a pistol, a shotgun and an AK-47, according to the sheriff.
The video includes aerial footage of the moment deputies shot a 14-year-old girl as she reportedly walked out of the garage of a home on Enterprise Osteen Road with a shotgun in her hand, leveling it at deputies.
The girl and a 12-year-old boy are accused of running away from a foster home facility, breaking into a stranger’s home and using guns they found inside to fire at deputies Tuesday evening.
Volusia County Sheriff Mike Chitwood said his deputies showed great restraint by not initially returning fire even as they were ambushed multiple times throughout the ordeal.
“They took multiple multiple rounds... And I know for a fact one banana clip was empty from the AK-47. I know from the radio transmissions that a 12-year-old opened fire on us. I know that the 14-year-old opened fire on us with a shotgun and then walked out and threatened one of my sergeants and told him she was going to kill him. And we didn’t return fire. But after she came out of the garage, hey, there was nothing left that we could do. We had to do (what) we had to do,” Chitwood said.
This is the tree that provided cover for our deputy who came under fire from two children yesterday. The best tree in Volusia County as far as I'm concerned pic.twitter.com/s2nfphNvVV— Mike Chitwood (@SheriffChitwood) June 2, 2021
The nine-minute video starts with Sgt. Donnie Maxwell using a tree as cover as he looks toward the pool deck area of the home. A loud bang is heard then immediately someone on the radio says, “shots fired.”
“Standby, standby. It appears the female has a long gun pointed toward me, I have to hold my cover. Standby,” Maxwell said, remaining calm. “It’s either a shotgun or a long gun the female has in her hand. The juvenile male looks like he has something in his hand as well.”
Seconds later, five gunshots are heard coming from the home.
“Shooting out the window in my direction, standby,” Maxwell said.
As soon as he finished that radio transmission, a succession of shots is heard.
The barrage of gunshots continues through the encounter with Maxwell repeatedly ducking behind the tree, which was the only protection he had. Chitwood estimates that the two suspects fired several dozen rounds over the course of about 30 minutes.
“Put the gun down now,” Maxwell yelled.
Gunfire is heard in the distance immediately after.
“Hey guys, let’s just hold hard cover. Let’s not shoot these kids, man, let’s just hold off, take our time,” a man on the radio said.
“10-4, they’re shooting at me. Hold it, hold the air,” Maxwell replied.
Chitwood said deputies were adamant about not escalating the situation further and that one even threw his personal cellphone through a broken window in hopes of establishing a line of communication with the children.
They also called in for tear gas and contacted the department’s juvenile justice coordinator to find out more information about the suspects in order to get through to them.
“Nothing, nothing worked,” Chitwood said.
About four minutes and 50 seconds into the video, helicopter footage shows deputies crouching behind a tree returning fire at the girl, the 14-year-old who was armed and behind a trash can, according to the report.
“Shots fired, shots fired, LEO shots fire,” a man said on the radio.
Chitwood said the eight deputies who opened fire have been placed on leave, which is standard procedure.
Units on the ground ordered the boy to come out and drop the AK-47 he was holding, records show. He wasn’t injured and neither were the deputies.
The 14-year-old was shot in the chest and the arm. As of Wednesday, she was listed in critical but stable condition.
Once the 12-year-old surrendered, deputies moved in to help the girl. Helicopter video shows her lying behind a garbage can clutching her chest. Chitwood said she still had a shotgun next to her and a pistol in her waistband.
The final minutes of the body camera footage are blurred but the 14-year-old girl can be heard screaming in agony.
The sheriff’s office on Wednesday also released arrest reports that provide more insight on what the two suspects did before they reportedly broke into the home and the conversations they had during the standoff.
According to the report, the 14-year-old told the boy, “I’m gonna roll this down like GTA,” referring to the video game Grand Theft Auto, when they noticed law enforcement officers outside the home.
Deputies said both the boy and the girl were residents at Florida United Methodist Children’s Home but ran away Tuesday around 4:15 p.m.
A FUMCH staff member called 911 to report them both missing, adding that the 12-year-old is a severe diabetic and needs insulin. She said the girl has run away before but the boy hadn’t.
“I do know that they had a couple of big sticks here on campus that I made them drop. Once they got off campus, they went to a wooded area that they ran off to, my male staff went to follow them and the young lady had a big stick that she hit him with,” the staff member said.
Records show that from there, the duo went swimming at Green Springs Park and when deputies spotted them there, the girl turned around and smiled at them then ran off with the 12-year-old and four other boys.
They came to the property on Enterprise Osteen Road and went into a shed, where they found ammunition, according to the report, and decided to continue searching for guns.
“They were on the property, according to this 12-year-old’s statement, because they do see the homeowner and his daughters leave. He says that to detectives, ‘We saw the homeowner leave,’ and they did, they went to go to Publix and fortunately he had his two daughters with him, one of the daughters wanted to stay home,” Chitwood said.
Once they saw the family leave, deputies said the juveniles used a shovel, a crowbar and large rocks to break windows to the home in order to gain access.
The four other boys ran off at that point while the 14-year-old and the 12-year-old went inside the home, according to the report. Chitwood said they used baseball bats to destroy toilets, a tub and furniture.
“All I can tell you is they ransacked the house, the house is ransacked. It’s not like they were in a hurry to get out, they were in there for the long haul. The entire house was ransacked. The drawers were left open, everything was removed, bags, clothing ripped up, I mean, they ransacked it,” Chitwood said.
Records show both the girl and the boy fired the guns at deputies knowing they were law enforcement officers and wanting to harm them.
Chitwood on Wednesday got candid about the emotional toll a violent incident like this has on deputies.
“I cannot imagine how hard it was for the deputies who had children that age, and you might see a body camera clip in here where the deputy is saying a prayer, ‘I don’t want to have to shoot. Please don’t, I don’t want to have to shoot, I don’t want to have to shoot. Don’t make me do this.’ I don’t know what the residual effects are for the rest of their careers. Nobody comes to work to kill anybody. We certainly don’t come to work to get into gunfights with 12- or 14-year-olds,” Chitwood said.
He met with deputies after the shooting and while he couldn’t speak with them about the particulars because the Florida Department of Law Enforcement is investigating, he offered them support.
“Some of them last night, they look good and smiling,” Chitwood said. “There are other ones that they have a blank 50-yard state like, ‘What just happened? What just happened?’”
All eight deputies will be ordered to attend at least one session with a psychologist.
The sheriff once again harped on the shortcomings of the juvenile justice system and FUMCHS.
He said the girl has been arrested for stealing puppies in 2018 and also set several fires when she was at another facility in Flagler County. He said the boy has been in foster care since 2016 and in April, he threatened “to kill a student and spread his guts all over the bleachers” while at school.
Chitwood said the Department of Juvenile Justice shouldn’t send juveniles with violent or criminal tendencies to facilities like FUMCHS, which also houses children from the Department of Children and Families.
“Why are violent offenders being put into group homes where there’s no violence? These are kids who have substance abuse issues, you know, they maybe have family issues at home, maybe sexually abused. Why are we putting violent predators in with them? And then we get what happens is a 12-year-old who has never been arrested who’s now shooting at the cops because he’s with a 14-year-old who’s telling him, ‘Let’s roll like it’s GTA,’” Chitwood said.
DCF issued a statement Wednesday evening.
“Placement assessments for children in Florida’s foster care system are determined by the community-based organizations based on the child’s needs and placement availability,” it read. “The Department will continue coordinating with state and community agencies to ensure that the appropriate services are in place for the youth involved in this incident.”
FUMCHS said its resources are limited and it will no longer be accepting emergency care program children. Earlier this year, a security guard was beaten to death there.
The 12-year-old and the 14-year-old face felony charges of attempted first-degree murder of law enforcement officers and armed burglary.