A group of five Key Biscayne teenagers, all males, threw several cups of nearly boiling water at other youths in an unprovoked attack last month, causing painful burns, police said. The parents of two alleged victims, both younger boys, decided not to press charges, officials said.
Three participants withdrew from classes at a Catholic private school after a meeting with school officials, but it’s not clear what action, if any, will be taken by officials at other high schools for the two other participants.
Six cups of hot water were taken from a coffee dispenser at the 7-Eleven on Harbor Drive shortly after 10 p.m. the evening of Feb. 25, according to statements the teens made to police and a review of security camera footage. Then, according to officers, the group boarded a golf cart and traveled south down Fernwood Road, where they tossed cups of hot water at a second group of seven boys near the Community Center, burning two of them. Police said all of the juvenile males were given Miranda warnings and admitted involvement.
The burns, which police described as minor, were to one boy’s stomach and groin, and the back of the other boy.
Three of the high schoolers, with ages ranging from 16 to 17, “mutually agreed” to withdraw from Immaculata-LaSalle High School after a meeting between administrators and parents, said Mary Ross Agosta, a spokeswoman for the Archdiocese of Miami.
“Such behavior does not coincide with the principles and teaching of a Catholic school,” Agosta said.
There does not seem to be any motive for the attack, said Police Chief Frank Sousa, who called it very disturbing. “I don’t believe they were going for two specific kids,” he said. “It was random.”
Sousa said he met personally with parents and explained options, but said if a person is unwilling to press charges, there is nothing further his department can do.
Key Biscayne Mayor Joe Rasco said he also met with one of the alleged victim’s parents, a teacher at St. Agnes school. While he said he was supportive of the mother’s decision, Rasco also said residents should seriously consider prosecution in future cases.
“Going forward, people need to take seriously the act of pressing charges, because that’s where things get accomplished,” he said. “Sometimes a wake-up call is needed for children.”
The aunt of a 13-year-old boy who suffered burns to the groin area said that as of Thursday, there had been no apology from the boys or the family. While she said she understood her sister’s decision, she also feels the community has to create consequences for misbehavior.
“This is shocking,” said the relative, who said her nephew was in pain when she picked him up from the island police station. “We live in a community, we should take care of each other.” The Independent agreed to anonymity in order to protect the identity of the injured child.
Police said the two other high school students went to public schools: one to MAST Academy and another to ISPA, an international studies school in Coral Gables. There has been no contact with the district, Sousa said.
The MAST and ISPA school principals did not return calls for comment.
The Miami-Dade County Schools Code of Student Conduct states that “off-campus conduct that poses a threat or danger to the safety of other students…may constitute behavior that has a substantial adverse impact on the educational environment requiring disciplinary action.”
Tony Winton is the editor-in-chief of the Key Biscayne Independent and president of Miami Fourth Estate, Inc. He worked previously at The Associated Press for three decades winning multiple Edward R. Murrow awards. He was president of the News Media Guild, a journalism union, for 10 years. Born in Chicago, he is a graduate of Columbia University. His interests are photography and technology, sailing, cooking, and science fiction.