‘Preservation of life’: Deputy recounts harrowing but fatality-free shootout with teenage assailants

On Balance with Leland Vittert

(NewsNation Now) — “It didn’t even seem like it was real at the time.”

That’s the way Volusia County, Florida, Sgt. William Maxwell describes his encounter with a 12-year-old boy and a 14-year-old girl during a 45-minute shootout in early June. Astonishingly, no one was killed in the lengthy armed exchange, though the girl was wounded by a bullet.

Speaking Monday on “On Balance With Leland Vittert,” Maxwell recounted his harrowing encounter with the two armed escapees from a juvenile youth home to the show’s host.

Maxwell said he had anticipated a much less complicated scenario unfolding, one in which officers entered the home where the children had broken in and returned them to the juvenile home. But the children found a shotgun and an assault weapon in the house. And they used them.

“They broke out a rear sliding glass door to try to run out. I engaged them. I told them to put the guns down because I saw them in their hands. They retreated into the bedroom and the next thing, they started the volleys of shotgun and pistol rounds at me.”

“It blew my mind. I can’t even fathom how a child could learn how to use the type of weapons or even assemble these types of weapons, because some of the weapons in the house weren’t even assembled from what we were told.”

Months later, Maxwell remains a bit taken aback by what he saw that day.

“These young people thought that this was ‘Grand Theft Auto,’ this was a game,” Volusia County Sheriff Mike Chitwood said. “And obviously, it ended where I think Nicole, the young lady who we shot, discovered that, hey, this isn’t like television.”

Chitwood blames a system ill-equipped to handle juvenile offenders.

“These kids are disposable kids that have a tendency toward violence and the system can’t handle it. They want to put round pegs into square holes,” he said. “Two youths, Two juveniles, one had a severe medical issue that had to be handled within four hours or he would have difficulties beyond that.”

Chitwood, nonetheless, sees reason for hope.

“I think finally the system that is broken here in Florida and almost cost the lives of my deputies and the lives of these juveniles has finally stepped up to the plate to acknowledge their failures and try to correct it.”

The sheriff said he is proud of his deputies and their performance in an unthinkable situation on that day in June.

“I couldn’t be prouder of our deputies. They did everything they could to preserve human life, to protect one another.”

To hear Maxwell describe it, it was just another day on the job.

“We at the sheriff’s office, we focus on the preservation of life. … We wanted to ensure that, no matter what, all the deputies went home safe, the juveniles went home safe and also the general public didn’t get into a situation where they were in harm’s way, as well.”

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