Inspector blames administrator for not stopping Avon Park riot

Tallahassee, Florida -- When a riot erupted at Avon Park Youth Academy in Polk County last summer, many people started questioning their procedures.

Now 10 Investigates has a new report showing there was never a plan in place if a riot broke out in the facility.

The Monday after the incident Polk Sheriff Grady Judd, who had to send several deputies to quell the disturbance, said at the time, "Right there with these two peekers, I saw a riot."

And while the Department of Juvenile Justice is calling the incident last August at the Avon Park Youth Academy a disturbance, the 911 calls suggest that it was much more.

One 911 call that came in said, "Every youth on the compound is fighting, everybody!"

And this newly released investigation paints a picture of a riot as almost half of the 138 juveniles in the facility took it over for more than three hours following a fight during a basketball game.

Another 911 call said, "It's a full blown riot out here, we need everyone we can get!"

The report says, "Youth came out with brooms, mop handles, and trash cans and hitting each other with chairs and broomsticks."

The investigation found facility administrator Garrett Pete Zeegers failed to ensure the safety and security of program youth by not having an effective Riot and Disturbance plan and inadequately trained staff.

You can hear then-assistant community administrator for the facility, Uriah Harris, instructing staff as he talks over the two way.

The staffer says, "Mr. Harris we got about 20 on one kid." The staffer wants to know what to do and Harris replies, "Stay out of it. There's nothing you can do, we got the authorities coming, stay out of it!"

When interviewed by investigators Zeegers admitted "It would have been more appropriate if they had helped as they could."

The Department of Juvenile Justice Secretary Wansley Walters acknowledged the situation was out of control after touring the facility, saying "We're very upset this incident occurred."

And while the facility is operating under the private security company G4S, the company shifts all the blame to its former Administrator Zeegers, saying was ultimately responsible for ensuring G4S staff and youth safety.

Staff also reported they were not trained, there were no handcuffs to help bring the juveniles under control, and they didn't follow the Continuity of Operations Plan. Meanwhile Zeegers is no longer working for G4S.


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