A Florida jury has said a Hillsborough County sheriff must pay damages to the parents of a teenager killed after he was kicked out of a state fair by his deputies. The department will have to compensate the bereaved eight figures for the tragic death of their loved one.
On Thursday, Sept. 22, ten jurors serving a Tampa federal court reached a verdict regarding the premature death of Andrew Joseph III, a 14-year-old Black boy, who died on Feb. 7, 2014, when he tried to cross the Interstate 4 highway after getting removed from the Florida State Fair, CBS 12 News reports.
The boy attended Student Day at the fair, a tradition where children can get in for free.
He was booted because deputies said he and a few other teenagers were “wilding,” causing a disturbance, knocking over fair patrons, and stealing from vendors.
Officials grabbed two of his friends, before getting him. He was caught because he picked up another boy’s hat after he dropped it while they were running.
Once caught, deputies detained and ejected Joseph, an act his parents believed violated his civil rights.
Joseph Jr. about 99 teenagers were questioned, photographed, and then driven off from the fair and taken home.
The defense said the young man was offered a ride from his football coach but turned it down. Instead, he opted to cross the highway on his own, hoping to make it over to the main gate. He was struck by an SUV before he could make it across the expressway.
The defendant’s attorney, Robert Fulton, said, “It was not foreseeable that someone would leave and enter the interstate.”
The plaintiff’s team argued authorities should have never placed Joseph in the predicament to decide how to get over.
“A kid should never have been put in this position,” attorney Chris Anulewicz said. “He should not have been put in the position of trying to do this on his own.”
He continued in his closing statements, “They owed Andrew a duty not to place him in a dangerous situation, and they did not do that.”
In their closing statements, the defense pushed that the teen’s own decisions were responsible for his death.
“We’re not devaluing the loss of the Joseph family,” Fulton said. “Nothing that has been presented over the last eight days has changed that fact that Cpl. Clark did not cause Andrew injury and the sheriff did not cause his death.”
The jury said the department was 90 percent responsible for the teen’s death, and that he was culpable for 10% of his demise.
The legal proceedings to bring justice to the family lasted six years and culminated in the sheriff’s office being ordered to pay $15 million to Joseph’s parents
The parents, Andrew Joseph Jr. and Deanna Joseph, will split the award 50/50.
“We thank God for the judge. We thank God for the jury. We thank God for ears that heard this case,” the father said, according to ABC Action News.
Sheriff Chad Chronister said via email, “Losing a child is a heartbreaking and eternal grief that no parent should have to face, and we continue to keep the Joseph family in our prayers.”
The parents spoke to the press after the verdict.
Joseph Jr. said, “That child didn’t do nothing wrong. Fifteen million [dollars] put some respect on it.”
His mother said, “We are elated at this moment.”
The family said they feel like this verdict was a “day of vindication,” and will donate a portion of the money to the Andrew Joseph Foundation.
The sheriff’s office can appeal the verdict.