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17 juveniles face charges after "nearly inciting a riot"

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Volunteer Youth Academy is located on South Hickory Drive in Gallatin. JOSH CROSS

More than a dozen juveniles were involved in what police say was nearly a riot at a residential treatment facility in Gallatin on Saturday.

Officers responded to yelling and screaming that was occurring outside Volunteer Youth Academy on South Hickory Drive at approximately 6:20 p.m. near where the public had gathered to take part in the Sumner County Museum's annual cemetery tour fundraiser, according to police.

"They heard a bunch of commotion going on and went up thinking there was a distinct disturbance," Assistant Police Chief Bill Sorrells said. "We didn't want anybody exposed... to all of that hollering and cursing. That alarms people.

"Then it just escalated to where (the juveniles) were not going to be told what to do."

After the "main antagonist" was arrested, police say some of the remaining youth refused to go back inside and were also taken into custody. In all, 17 juveniles are expected to face charges ranging from disorderly conduct to resisting arrest and assault as a result of the incident.

It took more than a dozen Gallatin Police Officers and deputies from the Sumner County Sheriff's Office to regain control of the area, according to Lt. Rickey Troup.

"We had to dedicate our officers to control a facility that we shouldn't have to be controlling," Troup said. "(What happened) was nearly inciting a riot."

Volunteer Youth Academy is a 24-bed residential treatment center for males between the ages of 12 and 17 who suffer from behavioral, emotional or mental health issues, according to the facility's website. While the program is designed to last 90 days, the typical stay for a child ranges between four to six months depending on their circumstances.

Children can come from across the state to the facility, which is one of approximately 30 private providers used by Tennessee Department of Children's Services, according to DCS spokesman Rob Johnson. All of the juveniles present Saturday were in the state's custody.

"Some of them will be kids who have gotten into trouble with the law, but they are typically not the types of charges that would have a kid in a more hardware-secured facility with razor wire and steel doors," Johnson said about the lack of a fence around the property. "They are not designed to be places that lock kids up. They are designed to be places where kids can get the services they need to come back into the community."

Since January, Gallatin police have responded to the facility 45 times, according to department records Monday. Of those, 20 calls were for runaways and three were for assaults.

Gallatin police are scheduled to meet with officials from the Volunteer Youth Academy later this month to addresses issues at the facility.

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