The family of the 14-year-old Riverview boy who died two years ago while trying to cross Interstate 4 after he was kicked out of the Florida State Fair filed a lawsuit on Wednesday.
Filed by Tampa attorney Barry Cohen, the suit names Hillsborough County Sheriff David Gee and several deputies, the Florida State Fair Authority, the Hillsborough County School Board and the school district. It alleges "unjustified arrest and detention of a nonviolent and non-resistant juvenile."
Andrew Joseph III, died Feb. 7, 2014 around 10:45 p.m. when he was struck by a car as he ran across I-4. He had been ejected from the fair hours earlier for rowdy behavior, along with several others, during the annual Student Day— a day off from Hillsborough County Schools with free admission to the fair.
According to the complaint, he was taken into custody and dropped off at Gate 4 near Orient Road. He died shortly after trying to cross I-4.
"Student day has had a continuous history of civil rights abuses," the suit alleges, claiming that it targets "African-American students and juveniles for arrest, ejection and unjustified law enforcement intervention."
The complaint says the fair has historically tolerated and allowed discriminatory ejections by the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office, and states that the Sheriff's Office never notified Andrew's parents that he was taken into custody.
Since Andrew's death, the fair has implemented new safety measures for Student Day, including a rule that if a student 16 or younger is ejected, they must be allowed to call a parent of guardian.
A spokesperson for the fair said the association does not comment on pending litigation. A sheriff's spokeswoman said they had not seen the lawsuit.