Volusia sheriff demands action from child protection agencies following shootout with children

Chitwood says change is needed in state-run agencies

VOLUSIA COUNTY, Fla. – Volusia County Sheriff Mike Chitwood is demanding action and criticizing state agencies following a shootout between Volusia County deputies and a 12- and 14-year-old earlier this week.

The sheriff took to social media Friday in a lengthy statement. In it, he referred to Thursday’s News 6 investigation and the statements the station received from the Department of Juvenile Justice. He said he believes the department is at fault for not getting these juveniles the right supervision.

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The 14-year-old girl and 12-year-old boy now face several charges including attempted murder of a law enforcement officer.

Investigators said the two escaped from a children’s home, broke into a house, took guns from it and shot dozens of rounds at deputies.

“It’s a complete and abysmal failure and for anyone to stand up and say, ‘Oh this is an isolated incident,’ is lying to you,” Chitwood said in an interview the day after the incident.

In a statement Friday, he mentioned the 14-year-old’s recent arrest for setting five fires in Flagler County.

He says the DJJ “cut her loose” after.

The department said all juveniles go through a screening process and a judge then decides if they should be in secure detention or not.

Chitwood said that’s a lie and said she never saw a judge after her last arrest. Instead, she ended up at a children’s home in Enterprise.

The sheriff on Friday asked for Gov. Ron DeSantis to take interest in changing the system starting with the state-run agencies.

“We’re seeing these tragedies throughout the state when these kids are improperly placed,” said Stacie Schmerling, a child right’s lawyer and former child protection investigator with the Broward County Sheriff’s Office.

Schmerling said it’s not just a DJJ issue.

She said if the juvenile doesn’t go to secure detention, it’s then on the local, private child welfare agencies to determine what type of facility they should go to.

“They either don’t get the children properly evaluated to know that they need that type of placement or there’s waiting lists,” she said.

About the Author:

Molly joined News 6 at the start of 2021, returning home to Central Florida.