Disturbance at Gallatin youth home leads to 17 charged, 5 arrested

(Courtesy: Gallatin Police Department)

GALLATIN, Tenn. (WKRN) – A volatile disturbance at a Gallatin home for troubled teens resulted in 17 minors being charged with five arrested.

Police say they’ve been called to the same home dozens of times, and investigators told News 2 youth there are out of control, and the counselors have no way to keep order.

The latest incident started Saturday night when a group of Gallatin dignitaries, including the mayor, were taking a historical tour of the cemetery behind Volunteer Youth Academy.

And when a bunch of kids wouldn’t stop screaming and cursing, the police came. Multiple officers wearing body cam reveal what happened.

It begins around 6:20 p.m. outside the home as a Gallatin police officer is calmly talking to a group of teens outside the volunteer youth academy, a level three Department of Children’s Services contracted facility that is unsecured.

(Photo: WKRN)

On camera, you hear the officer say to a group of boys, “Listen up. If you want respect, you’ve got to give it, guys.”

The officer is heard asking the young teenagers to go inside multiple times. The boys become agitated by the request and repeatedly tell the officer they don’t have to obey that command, using expletives directed at the police.

You can then hear a female officer yell, “They need to go inside. This is too much. Inside.”

Eventually, one young man is arrested.

Minutes later, another teenager is seen on body cam aggressively contacting an officer, who then chases him and ultimately takes him down.

You can also hear an officer to speak a man identified as a counselor at the group home who seems unable to do anything.

The man tells the officer, “I don’t have the Tasers. I don’t have the firearms. I have six very angry individuals.”

Moments later, a third teenager is arrested after sergeant asks him multiple times to go inside and he refuses. The young man says he doesn’t have to go inside and stands on a brick wall as the officer jerks him down to the ground and handcuffs him.

“They were asked several times to go inside. It should have gone inside a long time ago, that was one of the issues, they were not listening, and they were not doing what they were told,” said Janell Wilson with the Gallatin Police Department.

Later in the evening, officers enter the group home ordering children to their rooms. Ultimately, they arrested two more teens

Police told News 2 one boy shoves a counselor who won’t turn off a television, and another youth reportedly threatens to kill cops.

“It’s crazy,” said Wilson. “They’re kids. They are supposed to be there to get help and do better for themselves, but there is no control at the facility.”

(Photo: WKRN)

News 2 went to the DCS group home for answers. The staff was polite but said they could not comment.

Three years ago, News 2 did a story on the same group home, then under a different name. At that time, Gallatin police complained they had almost 200 calls for service to the home in three years.

The department says they’ve been called to the home 52 times this year alone.

And now, police have a message for DCS.

“Hopefully they will get some better control over this. The counselors there admit there’s nothing they can do. They can’t do anything,” Wilson explained.

News 2 was told Gallatin police and the group home plan to meet to address the issues.

They also met three years ago, and police say nothing has changed.

Late Tuesday afternoon, Brian Hemmert—the Vice President of governmental relations for Meridian Behavioral health Systems, sent the following statement:

Volunteer Youth Academy is committed to providing a safe and secure environment for its children. We have and will continue to collaborate with the police department, city officials and DCS to make necessary changes needed to improve the quality of care for the kids.

This weekend’s situation was unfortunate, and we believe there are multiple layers of learning opportunities for all involved.

We appreciate the willingness of the police, city officials and DCS to proactively resolve these issues while putting the needs of the community and children as the priority

Rob Johnson, Director of Communications for DCS, sent News 2 the following statement:

All youth make mistakes, and at DCS we don’t give up on them.

Expect to see the department to work even more closely with Volunteer Youth Academy and Gallatin city officials. We want to make sure these youth get the services they need — in an environment that offers safety and security for the youth and the community.

Investigations are already underway to learn what happened this weekend, and we are working with the academy and city officials to identify some common-sense steps for making the right improvements.