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90 boys brawl at detention center

CLEARWATER - A melee involving more than 90 boys broke out Monday night at the Pinellas County Juvenile Detention Center, officials said.Three boys suffered minor injuries.

Two boys who were watching television in a recreation room started the brawl about 9:30 p.m., said Lt. Gary Brown of the Pinellas County Sheriff's Department. Between 90 and 100 others joined the fight, throwing tables and chairs and even crutches during the confusion, Brown said.

A much smaller fight occurred Saturday, Brown said. In that incident, three boys were charged with battery, he said.

Three boys were taken to the hospital Monday night with cuts and bruises, Brown said. One of the boys suffered an asthma attack.

Corrections officers from the Pinellas County Jail, sheriff's deputies and K-9 units were called in to break up the fight, Brown said.

Brown wasn't sure late Monday how many officers were called. More than a dozen sheriff's squad cars crowded the parking lot during the disturbance.

Twenty-five boys were to be moved from the detention center to the maximum security wing of the county jail, Brown said. They were to be locked in single cells.

"They were moved to calm things down," he said.

Brown said at least six of the boys would be charged with battery for attacking detention center counselors and for fighting with other boys. Ten counselors were attacked, but none needed medical attention, he said.

Frank Herr, 38, of St. Petersburg, the father of a boy at the detention center, said his son called him last week to say that tempers were going to erupt.

"He heard a number of things stated that there was going to be a riot," Herr said.

Officials with the state Department of Health and Rehabilitative Services (HRS) have said recently that overcrowding in the center might lead to violence. The capacity of the center is 77, but it houses 110 juveniles on an average day, HRS officials have said.

"My son told me a week ago that there was going to be a riot out here," said Carolyn Weese, 39, of St. Petersburg, whose son was in the detention center during the fight. "He overheard it from some of the other kids."

Ms. Weese said her son complained of crowded conditions.

"He's been sleeping on the floor every other night for 43 days."

Detention center officials could not be reached for comment late Monday.