Tuesday, August 14, 2018
News Roundup

Community leaders discuss chaos at Florida State Fair's Student Day

TAMPA — Some blamed the Sheriff's Office, some blamed the schools. Many blamed the parents of misbehaving youths. Others said Tampa's churches need to be more involved.

All agreed that mass chaos at the Florida State Fair cannot happen again.

About 100 people gathered at Beulah Baptist Institutional Church on Tuesday evening to learn more about the Feb. 7 scene at the fair from the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office. Col. Jim Previtera described groups of more than 100 teens stampeding through the fair, breaking into fights and terrifying vendors.

He had videos that he said would speak for themselves. They would show the chaos, which prompted deputies to eject 99 people, arrest 12 and close the fair early on its first Friday, a free day for Hillsborough students.

But most clips, gathered off cellphone cameras, showed children laughing and running. One depicted a blurry fight. If they were misbehaving, the children did not appear violent in most of the footage. Some in the crowd at Tuesday's meeting grew restless.

"They're kids!" said Bridgette Welch, 44, who wondered if deputies were exaggerating.

Afterward, 17-year-old Brianna Senter, a senior at Blake High School, and her brother, 14-year-old Letore' Senter, who attends Progress Village Middle Magnet School, said deputies were not overstating the problems.

Letore' saw a boy knocked down and stomped. The boy was bleeding from the head. Brianna saw students from rival schools fight each other. Girls used their umbrellas.

"I was with my friend, just walking, and 100 to 150 people would run by and knock you over," she said.

The Sheriff's Office asked for input from leaders in the African-American community because most of the youths involved were black girls and boys. Many at Tuesday's meeting pledged to work with deputies.

After opening remarks by several public officials, audience members who wanted to talk got one minute to share his or her ideas and ask questions. Several said many young people often don't respect law enforcement because they don't see police and sheriff's deputies as fair to minorities. One man said the Sheriff's Office was negligent when it left teens unsupervised, outside the fair's gates after being ejected.

Andrew Joseph III, a 14-year-old thrown out of the fair that first Friday, was hit and killed by a sport utility vehicle while he tried to walk across Interstate 4 about three hours later. Life Malcolm plans to write about the meeting for the Florida Sentinel Bulletin, a twice-weekly newspaper that caters to Hillsborough's African-American community. He said people need to be accountable for Andrew's life.

"His parents dropped him off in a place where he was safe, and the Sheriff's Office removed him," Malcolm said.

Many attendees spent their 60 seconds talking about the "lack of respect" in today's children, of parenting problems and the issues that result when parents feel like they can't spank their kids for fear of being charged with child abuse.

Tangible ideas for change were few, but officials promised it was the first of many meetings. The NAACP is already planning another for Thursday evening at the Ambassadors of Christ Inc. Temple of Prayer at 704 E Humphrey St. in Tampa.

Hillsborough NAACP president Carolyn Hepburn Collins expects local teens to speak first at that meeting. Several people said Tuesday that it is important to involve high school students in the search for a solution.

Still, a few attendees already had ideas:

The Senter children's mother, Elise Senter, who teaches middle school, suggested making Student Day at the fair a privilege for well-behaved students. Most Hillsborough students get the first Friday of the fair off school, and admission is free. Such a policy would limit attendance and likely ban those more likely to cause trouble, she said.

Fred Hearns, 65, said the fair should include more activities, shows and exhibits that would appeal to black youths — that would draw them in and entertain them. The fair has Cracker Country, he said, why not a step competition, or an American Idol-like event?

The Sheriff's Office plans to hold more meetings. The agency hopes to have plans in place by May.

Jessica Vander Velde can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 226-3433.

     
Comments
Sports Day Tampa Bay podcast: Tony Dungy to enter Bucs’ Ring of Honor

Sports Day Tampa Bay podcast: Tony Dungy to enter Bucs’ Ring of Honor

With Tony Dungy at One Buc Place today for a news conference in advance of his induction into the Bucs' Ring of Honor, Rick Stroud recalls Dungy's tenure as the team's head coach.Dungy established a winning culture in Tampa Bay and led the ...
Updated: 9 minutes ago
A person was pulled from the rubble after a bridge collapsed near Genoa, Italy

A person was pulled from the rubble after a bridge collapsed near Genoa, Italy

MILAN — Italian news agency ANSA says one person has been extracted alive from the rubble of the bridge collapse near the northern city of Genoa and is being transported by helicopter to a hospital. Italian authorities say that about 10 vehicles were...
Updated: 1 hour ago
More afternoon storms across Tampa Bay, but dry air is on its way

More afternoon storms across Tampa Bay, but dry air is on its way

Ongoing pockets of scattered showers and isolated thunderstorms are drifting along the coast of the Gulf of Mexico due to a southwestern air flow. Those storms will begin to expand and shift inland by the afternoon and evening, pushing the Tampa Bay ...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Guest charged with kicking, punching Florida hotel staff

Guest charged with kicking, punching Florida hotel staff

CAPE CORAL — A Pennsylvania woman has been arrested after she was accused of kicking, punching and ripping out the hair of staff at a Florida hotel. Cape Coral Police say 23-year-old Tara Hegarty became enraged when she couldn’t prove she was a guest...
Updated: 2 hours ago
The Daystarter: The latest on ‘stand your ground’ arrest; red alert for Red Tide; it’s Taylor Swift time in Tampa

The Daystarter: The latest on ‘stand your ground’ arrest; red alert for Red Tide; it’s Taylor Swift time in Tampa

Catching you up on overnight happenings, and what to know today.• Showers will push ashore and strengthen in the early afternoon. There’s a 40 percent chance of rain mainly in the afternoon, but forecasters believe most of the rain will be gone by t...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Amalie Arena tries to lure millenials to its Firestick Grill

Amalie Arena tries to lure millenials to its Firestick Grill

TAMPA — How to attract the cool kids? This is the mantra for so many restaurants these days: That huge generation of millennials eats differently, thinks differently and spends differently than their parents. So how do you reel them in and make them ...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Echelman Pier sculpture raises bird safety concerns

Echelman Pier sculpture raises bird safety concerns

ST. PETERSBURG — From the beginning, the city’s plans for an aerial net sculpture on the downtown waterfront provoked alarm from those concerned about birds."I do not think that it is appropriate to place a moving, lighted net in an important flyway ...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Passed over for principal, a Pinellas educator with a problematic history is promoted

Passed over for principal, a Pinellas educator with a problematic history is promoted

Robert J. Gagnon was the shoo-in pick to be the next principal of St. Petersburg High last year, at least until "new information" surfaced about his early career that led Pinellas County school superintendent Mike Grego to reverse course.Now, 15 mont...
Published: 08/14/18
Heart-shaped earrings and pink hair? Check out Pasco’s first all-girl Cub Scout den

Heart-shaped earrings and pink hair? Check out Pasco’s first all-girl Cub Scout den

NEW PORT RICHEY — Cubmaster Alex Moyers stood in front of a table of Cub Scouts last month, waiting for them to come to attention."Please stand for the pledge and opening ceremony," Moyers said.The scouts quickly stood, and each placed three fingers ...
Published: 08/14/18
Put old bread to good use in a Peach and Mozzarella Panzanella Salad

Put old bread to good use in a Peach and Mozzarella Panzanella Salad

It was a pilgrimage I had long wanted to make, but the timing was never right: Saturday mornings at Born and Bread Bakehouse in Lakeland. I had tried Born and Bread’s bread once before, slathered in some house-made ricotta cheese that sent me on a ri...
Published: 08/14/18