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2 missing teens found at Lake City cellphone store

4 ran away from mental health facility over weekend; 2 returned on their own

LAKE CITY, Fla. – Four teens who police said ran away from a Lake City behavioral recovery center over the weekend are now back at the center.

Two of them returned on their own to the Meridian Behavioral Recovery Center, police said, and two were tracked down Monday afternoon at a Lake City cellphone store.

Police said such cases aren't that unusual, and their main concern is the safety of the teenagers. They said the teens were never considered "missing."

"With a missing person, we'll actually have an active investigation as far as who they were last with, where they were last seen," Lake City Police Officer Craig Strickland said. "If we need to, we'll deploy a K9 to find the person, especially if they're an endangered individual, an elderly person, someone who needs their medication."

Police said that was not the case with the runaway teens, who were never considered "endangered" or to pose any threat to the community.

"When you get a runaway youth, everybody knows that's one of those things that happens. You've got problems at home, you've got problems at the facility, you've got problems at school," Strickland said. "It's going to be one of those situations where they want to just go do whatever, and they usually turn back up, either at home or at a friend's house."

Two of the teens -- 16-year-olds Damon Countryman and Julious Holland -- were found Monday afternoon at an AT&T cellphone store.

Police said they were trying to buy a cellphone to get in touch with someone and get out of Lake City.

Officers took them from the store back to the recovery center.

"Unfortunately, being young and dumb, it's one of those things you think you can get away with and not be caught," Strickland said. "But again, if you're there for a court order, you're going to get picked up and taken right back there."

Police said the facility, which serves adults and children dealing with mental illnesses, addictions and other disorders, is under 24-hour surveillance by workers. But there are private areas and ways for people to leave without the workers knowing.

News4Jax attempted to contact Meridian on Monday about what happened, but calls were not returned.