Five years ago, dozens of teenagers were so rowdy at the Florida State Fair that Hillsborough deputies removed them from the fairgrounds.
One of them, Andrew Joseph III, was then hit and killed by a vehicle on nearby Interstate-4.
His family and supporters blame the fair and law enforcement.
WMNF News interviewed Angel D’Angelo, an organizer with Restorative Justice Coalition, which is helping to organize a five-year commemoration and protest at the Fairgrounds on February 8.
“Andrew Joseph III was a 14-year-old who was attending the Fair Day, as sanctioned by Hillsborough County Public Schools. His family originally comes from Louisiana. And they were refugees from the Hurricane Katrina tragedy. [They] came to Hillsborough County because it looked like a safe and charming place to be.
“Andrew Joseph III was a high-performing student in school, never had any disciplinary problems, anything like that.
“So when he approached his parents about going to the Fair Day they thought it would be a great idea. They saw the advertisements. It looked like a safe and fun place for children to go.
“Andrew Joseph III went. And unfortunately at some point in the evening the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office Gang Task Unit rounded up a large sum of children, most of them black, and took them into their detention area.
“At that point Andrew Joseph III was detained. He was searched. They looked for gang tattoos and piercings, none of which that they found. [They] took a mugshot, did all of that stuff. But he was never charged or officially accused of any wrongdoing.
“At that time the Florida State Fair closed the fair to handle this mass chaos. Andrew Joseph III was ejected from the fair along with 99 others. Twelve people were actually charged and taken to the juvenile assessment center. [Neither] Andrew Joseph nor any of his friends were one of those people.
“Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office took Andrew Joseph III to the side of a dark, busy highway – which would be Interstate-4 – and left him there. At no time did any member of the Florida State Fair or the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office actually attempt to contact Andrew Joseph’s parents. Tragically, while he was there on the side of I-4, he was struck by an SUV and killed.
“The driver of that SUV was not charged and was left free to go by the Florida Highway Patrol. To this point we are now at five years and [neither] the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office nor the Florida State Fair have taken any type of accountability in any way.”