The takedown on Aug. 9, 2012, caught on video, begins with a heavyset woman wearing shorts and a hair bun walking down a hall behind a smallish girl in a white jumpsuit. The girl’s arms are behind her back in an arm-hold. The detainee does not show any obvious sign of disobedience.
Staffer Shannon Linn Abbott thrusts the girl against a concrete wall. Her chest and chin rebound off the wall.
Abbott holds the girl, 15, there for several seconds before slamming her to the carpeted floor, face first, then resting her five-foot-four, 160-pound frame on the youth’s torso. Another woman literally piles on, positioning herself on top of the girl’s legs.
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The girl would be sat upon for 25 minutes and 27 seconds.
Other workers at Milton Girls Academy come and go, paying little heed. A woman toting a hot pink purse holds a leisurely conversation with Abbott, fixes her own hair, then walks away. Another woman clutching papers stops briefly to chat while Abbott, still squatting on the girl, rearranges the detainee’s arms. Later, the woman with the paperwork sits in a blue upholstered chair, crosses her legs and chats. Another woman hands Abbott a white cloth.
After 19 minutes, Abbott releases most of her weight. Six minutes after that, Abbott rises, releasing her captive. Twenty-six minutes into the video, Abbott helps the girl to her feet. The girl appears unsteady, and Abbott gives her the cloth to wipe her face.
The girl “spat up blood,” and her eye was “nearly swollen shut,” according to sheriff’s deputies. She later said she was petrified of Abbott, and had been quietly praying as Abbott walked her to the wall that she was thrown against.
Abbott wrote in a report that the girl had struck her repeatedly with her elbow.
The video shows nothing like that, and police reported that the girl was “not showing any signs of resisting.”
Abbott was fired, charged with battery, convicted, appealed, lost and got probation. Milton Girls Academy in Santa Rosa County has since closed.
This narrative is part of Tales from the Front, a collection of short stories about Florida's juvenile justice system. The Miami Herald investigated the state's youth corrections system following the 2015 beating death of a Miami-Dade detainee. Read the full "Fight Club" investigative series here.