'Something I’ve never seen in 35 years': Kids run away from Florida halfway house, break into home, shoot at cops

Source: Volusia County Sheriff's Office

Warning graphic language. Police body camera from a scene where children shot at police.

Jun. 2 2021, Updated 4:27 p.m. ET

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A standoff with police continued at a Florida home as the suspects inside fired at sheriff’s deputies outside. A shooting that carried on periodically for nearly two hours.

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"Female has a shtogun in her hand," a deputy said.

"Put the gun down now!" he yells at the suspect as a round is fired in the officer's direciton.

The suspects weren’t ordinary. They were just children. Aged 12 and 14 years old.

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One is now in the hospital and both face charges in connection to the June 1 incident in Volusia County, Florida, that included juveniles leaving the equivalent of a halfway house, breaking into another home, firing at police and a sheriff railing about the juvenile justice system.

On June 2, the Volusia County Sheriff’s Office released body camera footage from the incident.

"Hey guys, let's pull behind hard cover let's not shoot these kids, man. Let's just hold off and take our time," one deputy said moments after the first shots.

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THE SHOOTING

“Something I’ve never seen in my 35 years of policing” is the only way Sheriff Mike Chitwood could describe what unfolded in Enterprise, Florida.

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The event started after Travis O’Brien, 12, and Nicole Jackson, 14, ran away from the Florida United Methodist Children’s home in Enterprise, Florida. The home is best described as a halfway house for juvenile offenders.

They were reported missing around 5 p.m. and deputies from the Volusia County Sheriff’s Office learned O’Brien was a severe diabetic and didn’t have his medication.

It was also reported Jackson hit a staff member at the group home with a stick.

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Deputies were searching and around 7:30 p.m., a witness reported hearing glass break at a nearby home, according to the sheriff’s office. Deputies saw two people in the home and contacted the homeowner. The property owner said nobody should be in the home and there was a handgun, shotgun and AK-47 along with a large amount of ammunition in the residence.

gun point
Source: Volusia County Sheriff's Office

An sheriff's deputies draws his guns after children shoot at police in Florida.

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Chitwood said he felt bad for the homeowner because while O’Brien and Jackson destroyed the inside of the home by hitting furniture and toilets with a baseball bat.

The sheriff added he doesn’t know why the suspects chose to break into the particular home.

Police surrounded the home and started making announcements, which is when the children started shooting. Jackson fired her first shot at a sergeant on a patio door around 8:30 p.m., according to the sheriff’s office.

The children shot at police four times over the next 35 minutes.

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“Deputies did everything they could to deescalate,” Chitwood said at a press conference after the incident. “They almost lost their lives to a 12- and 14-year-old.”

Jackson then came out of the garage and twice pointed a shotgun at deputies who shot her. Jackson was wounded and police described her injuries as life-threatening.

Deputies rushed to the garage to provide aid and O’Brien, who was armed with the AK-47, surrendered without firing another shot, according to the sheriff’s office. Chitwood said deputies talked to him for about 30 seconds before he surrendered.

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In the body camera footage, the boy can be seen leaving the garage with his hands up to surrender.

As officers tend to Jackson she can be heard crying in pain as officers try to care. The footage was blurred as officers tended to her, but the audio remained.

suspect surrenders
Source: Volusia County Sheriff's Office

A child surrenders after firing at police in Florida.

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Jackson was taken to the hospital where she underwood surgery. She was listed in stable condition as of June 1. O’Brien was also taken to the hospital because of his medical condition, not because of injuries in the shooting, police noted.

Chitwood was quick to praise the deputies’ training and said if he was responding, he would have gone directly into the home thinking the suspects were just kids.

He added it’s likely someone would have lost their life — police or the children.

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

JUVENILE JUSTICE

Charges against both the children are pending, according to the sheriff’s office. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement is also investigating the incident, which is standard practice in a police shooting.

Chitwood also railed against the juvenile justice system as he discussed the situation.

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The sheriff described the home as a “complete failure and disgrace” to the juvenile justice system in Florida. Deputies noted there were almost 300 calls for police response at the home in 2020. Last month, a juvenile at the facility pleaded no contest to manslaughter for the death of a security officer at the facility.

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Chitwood said Jackson was at the Volusia County facility after being charged when she allegedly stole puppies. Jackson was sent to one halfway home, which she tried to burn down, before being sent to the Volusia County location.

“Cause the juvenile justice system works so well here in the state of Florida,” Chitwood said sarcastically.

“The department of juvenile justice constantly is sending kids that need to be in secure facilities into our communities. And tonight, thankfully, I have deputies that are going home to their families because they knew what to do, they were well trained and they were well supervised.

“Can you imagine the firepower in that home of 12- and 14-year-olds that wanted to threaten, open fire on us, then come out and defy us to shoot them because they are going to kill deputies. This is something I’ve never seen in 35 years of policing.”

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