Ramen Riot Update: Dozens of teens face charges stemming from August riot at Avon Park Youth Academy

5:34 PM, Sep 13, 2013   |    comments
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Photo Gallery: Avon Park Youth Academy Riot


Polk County, Florida - They left behind a mess: offices trashed, windows broken, furniture overturned, even a small fire. 

And for the August rampage, Polk Sheriff Grady Judd says 61 teenage inmates of the Avon Park Youth Academy will now pay the price. They're looking at felony riot and criminal mischief charges.

"They totally trashed the place," said Judd at a Friday news conference. "At the end of the day, we're going to hold them accountable."

MORE PHOTOS: Avon Park Youth Academy Riot

However -- and like he has from the start -- Judd maintains the costly destruction and massive law enforcement response (some 150 officers) could have been prevented.  

"In my estimation, we could have stopped this at the front end," he says.

The riot escalated from a simple fight on a basketball court over three cups of ramen noodles. But staff for G4S, the private company that runs the facility for the state, is banned from using pepper spray. It's a Department of Juvenile Justice policy and previously DJJ Secretary Wansley Walters told 10 News that such policies are standard in the industry. 

"These are techniques that are not used. They can be dangerous when used with children," Walters said in an interview last month.

But Judd says that's an academic view that just doesn't cut it in the real world of hardcore kids. "They owned that facility; they took it away from G4S that night. They took it away because G4S had no tools to deal with the out of control juvenile thug."

While Walters says such rules are common, it didn't take 10 News long to find states where pepper spray is allowed. Both Texas and California allow its use with juveniles... but under very strict guidelines, in order to prevent abuse.

And there's more disagreement over the disturbance. The Sheriff's Office estimates the kids did some $350,000 in damage to the facility. That figure comes from a G4S maintenance person, while the state says the facility has spent just $87,000 on repairs so far.

Judd says he plans to bill the state for the costs to his agency.

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