3-on-1 fight at youth center briefly uploaded to YouTube

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Officials at Okaloosa Youth Development Center say they are investigating incident

By Mark Judson | 682-6524 | @cnbMark | mjudson@crestviewbulletin.com

CRESTVIEW — A video appeared briefly on YouTube depicting a three-on-one fight at the Okaloosa Youth Development Center.

The video, which has been removed from the website after accumulating more than 100 views, showed three young men attacking a fourth man. The victim was struck with a rod-like object at one point during the attack.

A young detainee videoed and uploaded the confrontation from a mobile phone, although it is unclear whether he was violating Development Center policy by having the phone.

The juvenile detention facility houses youths ages 13-18 who have “moderate to serious mental health disorders,” according to the center’s website (www.gulfcoastyouthservices.com/oydc_index.html).

The News Bulletin attempted to call Development Center Program Director Amy Ellis, but she was unavailable, according to a staffer.

Department of Juvenile Justice Deputy Chief of Staff and Communications Director Heather DiGiacomo responded with an email statement:

“The Florida Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) does not tolerate incidents that threaten the well-being of the youth in our care. These incidents are taken seriously, investigated thoroughly, and if failures on the part of contracted provider staff are identified, we expect that they be held fully accountable for their actions.

“DJJ is aware of the incident and is currently investigating. The Okaloosa Youth Development Center is currently on an admissions freeze to ensure youth safety and security.”

How the young men came obtained the object that was used as a weapon is unknown. A question concerning the facility’s cellphone policy was not answered by Development Center officials.

The DJJ oversees the center, which is operated by Gulf Coast Youth Services, a private company.

Several violent incidents have allegedly occurred in the past few months at Gulf Coast Youth Services facilities.

Most recently, the News Bulletin reported on the physical abuse against Dalvon Soares, a 17-year-old at the Development Center. He allegedly was assaulted on three occasions during April, including one instance with a shower pole.

The Northwest Florida Daily News reported on a Feb. 25 riot at Okaloosa Youth Academy adjacent to the Development Center. More than 50 juveniles took part in the hours-long incident that resulted in the transfer of seven youths.

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