Fourteen-year-old Andrew Joseph III was killed Feb. 7, 2014, as he tried to cross Interstate 4 in Tampa on foot just west of U.S. 301. He had been kicked out of the Florida State Fair for alleged disorderly conduct.
He was among the more than 100 young people ejected that night after a stampede of teenagers had rushed through the fair midway, according to Hillsborough County deputies.
His father, Andrew Joseph II, has spoken out about the incident since his son’s death. He contends the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office and the fair authority were responsible for his son, whom he says was wrongfully arrested and thrown out of the fair. He’s outraged the sheriff’s office didn’t call parents of those black teenagers for a ride home, but instead left them to fend for themselves.
Joseph, a Riverview resident, has been a constant presence at media events for the past few months as attention has focused on local law enforcement and the black community. A Tampa Bay Times report about the Tampa Police Department disproportional arrests of blacks for bicycle infractions, has helped fuel that attention.
Joseph said he’s grown weary of failing to gain the attention of those who might hold the sheriff’s office accountable. However, he finally may have found a champion for his cause: U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson.
Grayson, an Orlando congressman and U.S. Senate candidate, said Monday he’s considering calling on the U.S. Justice Department to uncover investigate what happened to cause Andrew Joseph III’s death.
“There’s a racial element to this that needs to be thoroughly investigated, since the children who were arrested were black, and the officers who arrested them were white,” Grayson said.
He met with Joseph and other local activists including members of the Black Lives Matter movement at the Bricks, a bar and restaurant in Tampa’s Ybor City, before speaking later to the Hillsborough County Democratic Executive Committee.
“I’m going to be honest with you,” Grayson said, “the idea of taking a 14-year-old boy, dropping him off out of a car from where he was with no practical way to get back in touch with people, to get to any place of safety, seems like inappropriate conduct.”
Joseph said he has spoken with Hillsborough County Sheriff David Gee about the incident and Tamps’ U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor. “This is something that doesn’t go away,” Joseph said. “This could have been prevented with one call, and my child would be alive.”
Grayson also met with Bay area activists Donna Davis and Leila Abdelaziz about the way a police civilian review board is being created in Tampa. Mayor Bob Buckhorn has fomented controversy because he wants to select the majority of the board members. Some City Council members say they have the legal authority to select those board members.
“We are here trying to marshal in a genuinely civilian appointed review board that is not commandeered by the mayor,” said Davis, co-chairwoman of the Black Lives Matter chapter in Tampa.
Grayson said it’s important to hold law enforcement accountable, and that’s why county sheriff’s must run for office every four years. “We need a group of people who are independent, who are actually responsible and answerable to the community. So who have some kind of actual, independent authority,” he said. ” That’s the only way things like this actually work.”
A handful of Black Lives Matter activists protested outside the Tampa Palms Country Club nine days ago when Grayson’s top Democratic Senate opponent, Patrick Murphy, spoke before the Hillsborough County Democratic Executive Committee.