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Deputies quell youth center melee

A fight escalates into a brawl at Sunshine Youth Services Center.

A racial squabble at Sunshine Youth Services Center led to a brawl early Tuesday that Pasco County sheriff's deputies needed pepper spray to control, deputies and center officials said.

Six boys who are detained at the state-contracted center were arrested as a result of the disturbance, deputies said.

Three boys were charged with battery on a detention facility detainee, two were charged with obstruction of police and one was charged with resisting arrest with violence, deputies said.

Their names are not being printed by the Times because of their age.

Chaos ensured after a racially motivated fight between two youths, one white, the other black, said president Jim Hill of Sunshine Youth Services.

"A fight got it going and when law enforcement came, it got heated up again," Hill said.

Deputies were called to the center, which holds 13- to 18-year-old misdemeanor offenders with mental disabilities, about 1 a.m. after one youth was punched and hit with a chair, according to reports.

Four youths had been running about the facility, trying to start fights with others, deputies said.

While attempting to investigate the incident, three of the boys formed a shield, shouting profanities and blocking deputies from the boy deputies wanted to interview, deputies said.

After police pepper sprayed them, the boy they were trying to investigate suffered a seizure and was temporarily unconscious, deputies said.

While the boy was being attended to, about 10 other boys started fighting, deputies said. One of the boys repeatedly shouted that he was going to kill the deputies. A staff member restrained the boy who made the threats by sitting on him..

At that point, deputies said, they realized the situation was getting out of control.

After the boys covered in pepper spray had showered and were being led to patrol cars, one of them broke free and ran until he was tackled by deputies, according to reports.

None of the boys, including the one who had a seizure, suffered more than minor injuries, deputies said.

The center at 21808 State Road 54 opened June 28 and is a low-level security facility, Hill said.

Hill, in speaking to a Times reporter early Tuesday, described the incident as minor and said "it never escalated in a true form of a fight."

He later said that the police reports must be correct and added that a plastic garbage can was thrown during the incident.

He said any boy at his facility who is arrested could be forced to leave the facility for a center with more security.

The arrested boys were taken to the county Juvenile Detention Center near San Antonio, deputies said.

The center, which currently holds 31 inmates, will eventually hold 69, Hill said.

_ Ryan Davis covers higher education and social services in Pasco. He can be reached at 800-333-7505 ext. 3452 or by e-mail at