Home Wrongful Death Lawsuits ‘Wrongful’ Florida teen death lawsuit heads to trial

‘Wrongful’ Florida teen death lawsuit heads to trial

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Parents of Andrew Joseph III say their 14-year-old son’s death was a result of HCSO “negligence”.

TAMPA, Fla. — More than eight years after their son was killed, the family of Andrew Joseph III will have their day in court soon.

On Feb. 8, 2014, Andrew Joseph III was one of about 100 minors kicked off of the Florida State Fairgrounds on what was called “student night” after some teens were accused of rushing the midway and starting fights.  

Later that night, Andrew was hit and killed by an SUV while trying to cross I-4 in the dark.

The family claims the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Department violated Andrew’s civil rights by removing him from the fairgrounds, which led to his death.

Andrew’s father said their family’s grief is still raw. 

“It’s been hard. We’re still angry. Very angry. Really emotional. The grief don’t go anywhere. The grief is like love with nowhere to go. It’s built up. And we were robbed of so much,” Andrew Joseph II said.

The 14-year-old’s mother Deanna Joseph said the family has been waiting for its day in court and she is eager to “scrub clean” her son’s name, who she said was not part of any “wilding or fighting at the fair.” 

“This is a long-awaited moment in time in which we feel Andrew’s name will be vindicated in the process and the world will finally know Andrew’s truth,” Deanna said. 

His father is also eager to get answers about what happened that night. 

“He was in the sheriff’s custody. It’s been eight years and the sheriff had an in-custody death, involving a juvenile, with no police report. Somebody has to ask the question,” he said.

Ahead of the trial beginning on Monday, the lawyer representing the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office, Bob Fulton, told 10 Tampa Bay they will show all of its evidence regarding the case to the jury. 

“We intend to try the case in the courtroom where the jury will be able to evaluate the facts and all of the evidence. We have no other comments as the trial starts tomorrow,” he said.

Several activist groups plan to rally around the trial, including Black Lives Matter local and national chapters.

“We say black lives matter because it’s constantly black people, black children who are treated in this manner. And we know that if we could ensure the safety of black children, every other child would also be more safe,” Co-founder and Director of Black Lives Matter Grassroots Dr. Melina Abdullah said.

Abdullah and other activists are calling for an end to qualified immunity, which shields police officers from civil lawsuits.

“Can law enforcement agencies continue to make these type of irrational, unlawful decisions to violate the civil rights of minorities, people of color, children, and be able to lean on qualified immunity to escape prosecution,” Co-founder of Black Lives Matter Restoration Polk Inc. Pastor Carl M. Soto said.

Soto also said families impacted by qualified immunity have traveled from around the country to be at the first day of the trial in Tampa on Monday, including the families of Emmett Till, Jacob Blake and Breonna Taylor.

RELATED: Parents of teen killed after 2014 state fair ‘student Night’ still calling for change

RELATED: Five-year Fight for Justice: Family of teen killed walking home from state fair pushing for safety measures

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