Report shows officers injured, fired over May riot

by: Richard Belcher Updated:

DEKALB COUNTY, Ga.,None - Channel 2 Action News has learned a state investigation found the head of a youth detention center failed to control the flow of contraband into the center.

The investigation was conducted after the DeKalb Regional Youth Detention Center was hit by the first of two major riots earlier this year.

Channel 2's Richard Belcher was the first reporter to see the findings and pictures of the damage.

Belcher started asking for the report months ago using the state's open records law and finally got it late last week.

The report said seven correctional officers were hurt, with four requiring immediate medical attention.

One correctional officer was fired because of the incident, and the director of the facility was counseled.


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A wild melee had broken out at the DeKalb RYDC around 8:15 p.m. May 25.

Until Belcher got the more than 300-page investigative report, few details were known about what happened.

Pictures provide graphic evidence of the violent rampage inside the detention center.

The report notes that the evening shift had only six officers reporting for work. When a single fight broke out in a day room, the report said other fights quickly followed.

Officers were assaulted with light bulbs, chairs and a table. One officer told the chief investigator there was "untold damage," according to the report.

But the Department of Juvenile Justice told Belcher Monday the damages totaled about $22,000.

The officer who described the extensive damage had to be treated because he had pieces of glass in an eye, the report said.


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That officer is also accused of using inappropriate techniques to control the rioters.

The most serious allegations against staff came from inmates who said several officers smuggled in marijuana on a regular basis.

Tests revealed that several detainees had marijuana in their system at the time of the riot. The officer most frequently accused of smuggling marijuana was fired. Two other officers later resigned.

The report concluded that acting director Sonya Love "failed to control the flow of contraband inside the facility." Love was given what's called informal coaching as a result of that finding.

One of the officers who resigned stayed at the RYDC long enough to call for police help with another riot early in October.

At final note, at the height of the riot in May, one officer held his hands above his head to appear non-threatening and then shouted to the detainees, "I rebuke you in the name of Jesus."

He was later given minor disciplinary action for using inappropriate physical tactics on the rioters.