Six teens charged in brawls at Bronx juvenile detention center

By: 
Larry Celona, Alex Taylor and Aaron Feis

A half-dozen teens were indicted Tuesday in a series of violent behind-bars brawls that left city corrections officers badly injured at a controversial Bronx juvenile center, officials said.

The harrowing clashes began within days of the city finishing its transfer of all 16- and 17-year-old inmates from Rikers Island to Horizon, a move that Mayor Bill de Blasio called “an historic day for criminal justice reform,” but critics said crammed dangerous youths in tight quarters where corrections officers weren’t even allowed so much as pepper spray to keep order.

Five of the youths were hit with charges including felony assault, while the sixth faces a top count of obstructing governmental administration for their respective parts in four wild October fights at Horizon Juvenile Center.

In the first melee, on Oct. 3rd, Zahkari Bennett, 17, allegedly punched a corrections officer until he blacked out and fell, hitting his head on a table and chair, prosecutors said.

The very next day, Jaheem Ware, 17, picked up a garbage can and tried to chuck it inside a Horizon center, authorities allege.

Corrections officers were able to stop him, but while they were restraining him, Rennie Patterson, also 17, came up from behind and sucker-punched a guard two times, officials said.

On Oct. 7, Jayquon Coleman, 18, managed to get his hands on a guard’s radio and threw it back in his face, breaking the officer’s nose, according to prosecutors.

And on Oct. 27, Patterson, joined by 18-year-old Juneal Jackson and Alfred Burns, 17, beat up an officer and battered him with broken-off broom handles, authorities said.

Ware is charged with obstructing governmental administration, while the other five face varying counts of assault.

As the teens were shuffled through Bronx Supreme Court on Tuesday, a handful of corrections officers watched from the gallery.

“Bulls–t,” one said under his breath as Burns entered his not guilty plea.