ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. – A 16-year-old inmate, who recently came out as gay, was attacked by other inmates in the St. Johns Youth Academy on Sunday, according to the St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office.
Investigators said Devon Jackson, 18, of Orlando, and a 14-year-old, who was not identified, are charged in the attack.
According to a police report obtained by News4Jax, Jackson and the younger suspect attacked the 16-year-old boy because he recently came out as being a homosexual.
A book was being passed to another inmate Friday with notes about the 16-year-old boy being gay, according to the report.
The victim told investigators that he was in the day room of the “B” pod when Jackson approached him from behind and attacked him. According to the report, Jackson told the victim he “didn’t want a fa***t in the pod.”
Part of the incident was recorded on surveillance video but not all of it, the report states.
As Jackson was being put into handcuffs, he reportedly stated he only hit the victim because he heard the victim ask another inmate to perform sexual favors on him.
Jackson was charged with one count of first-degree felony battery. A St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office spokesperson said the State Attorney’s office will determine if the charge against Jackson will be elevated to a hate crime.
The investigator handling the case noted in the report that Jackson intentionally caused bodily harm to the victim.
Charges against the 14-year-old were also sent to the State Attorney’s Office for further review.
Cindy Watson, the CEO of JASMNY, an organization that helps gay, lesbian and transgender teens, said seven to nine percent of juvenile prisoners identify themselves as gay.
"Most of them don't come out because they're afraid for their safety, and they're afraid what's going to happen to them," Watson said. "LGBT young people, we know, are some of the most at-risk for bullying and harassment in these kinds of facilities.”
The Florida Juvenile Justice Department released a statement in regard to the incident:
“The Florida Department of Juvenile Justice does not tolerate harassment, discrimination, or harm against any youth, and it is our job to ensure that every youth in our custody is kept safe. All youth under the care and custody of DJJ have the right to live in a safe, healthy and secure environment.”
The St. Johns Youth Academy is a secure high-risk residential facility that provides treatment to adolescent males who have been committed to the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice. There are currently 70 boys ages 13-19 at the facility who have committed felonies that range from armed robbery to manslaughter.