Andrew Joseph III was just 14 years old when he died. His parents said the teen had been thrown out of the Florida State Fair during the 2014 Student Day. He was attempting to cross the Interstate on foot when he died. On the second anniversary of their son’s death, Andrew Joseph Jr. and wife Deanna are staging a protect at the fair’s Student Day. They are asking people to join them in an effort to push for new safety measures to protect students at the fair. The family has also filed a wrongful death lawsuit this week against the Hillsborough County School District, the Sheriff’s Office, and the Florida State Fair Authority.
“We need to somehow wake Tampa up,” said Deanna Joseph. Each year, the school hands out passes to the fair for students to use for free admission on Student Day. This leads to thousands of kids visiting the fair in a single day, which increases violence and makes unruliness. In 2014, police ejected nearly 100 students and arrested 12 people on student day. Andrew Joseph III was among the ejected students that day. Once the teens were told to leave, the police failed to contact their parents or make sure they safely returned home. The Josephs said police dropped their son off two miles from the fairground. He then had to cross the interstate on foot to try to get to his ride and was hit by a car and killed.
Both Andrew Joseph II and Deanna Joseph are licensed therapists. They had moved to Florida from New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. They allowed Andrew to attend Student Day because they assumed it would be safe since the school had passed out free tickets. They had no idea that a fun outing could quickly become tragic. When violence erupted at the fair, officers kicked out around 100 kids, including some known gang members. “But all these kids were released at the same spot,” said Joseph Jr. “So now we have real gang members being released with totally innocent kids.”
It was hours later when someone came to their home and alerted them that their son had been taken out of the fair in handcuffs. Joseph said that they heard the fair had been shut down and he tried to call his son’s cell phone, but got no answer. He went to the fairgrounds and it was empty, but he asked a state trooper for help. After giving a description of his son and what he was wearing, the police called the juvenile detention center and the hospital and then asked Joseph to call his son’s cell phone again. The officer told Joseph that the phone that rang was found near the body of a young man who was struck by a car on the interstate. “This is how the news was delivered to me on the side of the road,” Joseph said. “This is how I found out my son was dead.”
“This was an unimaginable loss for the Joseph family,” said Christopher Ligori, a plaintiff attorney in Tampa. “With just a single phone call to this teen’s parents asking for someone to pick him up, a tragic death could have been avoided.”