Massive Brawl Erupts at Memphis Juvenile Court

Massive Brawl Erupts at Memphis Juvenile Court

A near riot broke out as 50 teenagers got out of their cell and started fighting late Monday night.
MEMPHIS, TN (localmemphis.com) - It was chaos at Memphis and Shelby County Juvenile Court. A near riot broke out as 50 teenagers got out of their cells and started fighting late Monday night.

It happened around 11:15 Monday night after a 16-year-old set off the building's sprinkler system.

"If they're all out at one time, they could overpower anybody," says Robert Denine. "50 kids, there's no telling what they could do."

Investigators say the teen used a squeegee attached to a mop to start the mess.

"I don't see how he was able to get a mop. How'd he get a squeegee too?" asks Denine.

The court's chief administrative officer says the 16-year-old was one of two inmates cleaning up from a toilet that overflowed.

When the guard supervising them went to dump a bucket of water, the teen broke the sprinkler, which then triggered 49 cell doors to open.

Many of the inmates are rival gang members. Fights erupted quickly.

"I've been to 201 Poplar," Denine says. "It doesn't surprise me. Most officers seem like they're just there to get a paycheck."

Shelby County Commissioner Henri Brooks says that's a legitimate concern. "Staff is just going through motions," she says.

Brooks started an investigation into the court a few years ago.

Last year the justice department sent out a list of improvements. The court just underwent a review.

"They actually commended Juvenile Court on improvements," says Brooks.

Monday night was a step backward. The court is investigating whether the inmates planned the fight in advance, and if the guard did anything wrong.

"That whole thing says to me Juvenile Court has a long way to go," says Brooks.

The 16-year-old who started the fight has been charged with felony vandalism.

One inmate was hurt. He was hospitalized with injuries to his shoulder and arm.
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