Sgt. Donnie Maxwell whispers the words aloud, as if challenging his own nerve. Or like a silent prayer in a moment of doubt.
His handgun is trained forward from his hiding place behind a wide tree. He is readying himself — with his hands but also his soul — to shoot a child.
“Don’t make me do this,” he whispers. “Don’t do this.”
Note: Maxwell speaks at the 3:20 mark in the video below, which contains footage of a shootout, including law enforcement officers shooting a minor.
A nine-minute video released by the Volusia County Sheriff’s Office offers a terrifying look at the tactical danger and moral nightmare a group of deputies faced in Enterprise, Florida, about 30 miles south of Daytona Beach, Tuesday night, when a 12-year-old boy and 14-year-old girl barricaded themselves in a house and began shooting at police with a rifle and shotgun.
“This is something I’ve never seen in 35 years of policing,” Volusia County Sheriff Mike Chitwood said.
Even under fire, the police struggle to hold back. “Just so I’m clear for everybody, nobody should be approaching anything,” a supervisor says in a radio call.
The two youths had fled a nearby group home for children operated by the Florida United Methodist Church. About 2 miles from the home, the pair broke into the empty residence — where the home’s owner had a shotgun, an AK-47, a handgun, and 200 rounds of ammunition, according to Chitwood. For 90 minutes, the youths shot at deputies who surrounded the home until officers shot the girl as she fired at them, and the boy surrendered. The girl was reported to be in stable condition Thursday after surgery at a local hospital.
The body-camera video released Wednesday begins with Maxwell taking direct fire from the minors while hiding behind a tree. In the video, Maxwell calmly relays information to other deputies on his radio as shots fly past him, yelling to the children and steadying himself for a confrontation.
“They are shooting at me,” Maxwell reports over his radio. He says he sees the girl reloading a shotgun and thinks she is about to come toward him through a broken window. “If she comes out she’s going to have the firearm,” he radios.
A supervisor responds: “Okay, well then you challenge her.”
He then reports on the radio that the boy also has a weapon and, off the air, utters his plea: “Don’t make me do this. Don’t do this.”
The minors did not approach Maxwell, instead staying in the home, and the sheriff’s video cuts to heat-signature video from a helicopter above the siege. It captures the girl walking onto the driveway, where other deputies are just a few yards away behind a large tree. Seeing lights from the deputies or perhaps hearing them call to her, the girl appears to fire toward them. Chitwood said she had called out a threat to the deputies that she intended to kill them.
As one of her shots hits a car parked on the driveway, shattering a window, deputies shoot back. The heat-sensitive images catch a fountain of brass casings flying from their weapons as they fire.
The home the children occupied Tuesday sits on a 26-acre ranchlike property near Sanford, Florida, in the small town of Enterprise. When deputies arrived at the property, they contacted the homeowner and learned that no one should have been there. The rural, sprawling property abuts another home on one side and, in other directions, swampland, a former railroad bed, and a lake.
Deputies pursuing the children formed a perimeter within a few dozen yards of the home.
The remainder of the video is from officer body cameras as they secure the boy and treat the wounded girl.
For the full length of the final minute, which is blurred, the girl screams and cries in agony as officers begin to transport her. The deputies curse repeatedly, their voices cracking with frustration and stress.