Members of Abilene boot camp speak out about police investigation
Abilene police and Child Protective Services are investigating Reality Invasion boot camp for allegedly using restraining devices and stun guns against children.
Those associated with the boot camp, however, say they have only used a stun gun once and that was for self defense.
Reality Invasion is a non-profit, faith-based organization for troubled children.
"We have had a [stun gun] and we have used it once," founder Paul Huntington said. "That is for our protection. A lot of these kids have a background of being violent. A lot of these kids have a background of not minding authority and coming from abusive homes and stuff like that so all they know is to lash out."
Huntington said the camp staff have handcuffs in case the kids get violent but that using a stun gun is their last resort.
Devon Denomie, a drill director, said one girl forced him to use it.
"We were in the room, making her clean her room, and she started to get aggressive and came at me so we had to. On the contract it says that if we feel threatened we can do it," Denomie said. "I did what I needed to do to protect the other drill instructors and even the kids."
Camp participants are put through rigorous mental and physical activities. Parents have to sign a liability waiver to show they understand those activities "could lead to bodily injury, impairment, disability or even death."
Police said assaulting a child is illegal regardless of parental consent. However, using "reasonable" force to discipline a child could be a different story. That is what police are investigating.
Members said they do not use stun guns for discipline.
Parents and children expressed their support for the camp Wednesday.
"I got my discipline under control. I have a bright future set for me," former participant Ferman Cisneros said.
"They want me to run and say 'well all these allegations are coming against you, hey pack up!' No. I'm staying right here because these kids need me as much as I need them. I love these kids, and crazy enough, these kids love me," Huntington said.
As of Wednesday, no arrests have been made, but police said it could go to a grand jury for review.
Police said one child has injuries that reflect the allegations and the youngest victim is only four years old.
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