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Hillsborough dad in fight video says his son was being bullied

Kimberly Struthers, 42, and her husband, Philip Struthers, 41, say the boy their son fought had been taunting him for months.

DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times

Kimberly Struthers, 42, and her husband, Philip Struthers, 41, say the boy their son fought had been taunting him for months.

LARGO — The father who was videotaped urging on his son in a fistfight with another teenager says there's a lot more to the story than the raw 54 seconds blazing across the Internet.

The online video clip shows Philip Scott Struthers' 16-year-old son fighting another teenage boy as Struthers urges his son to "punch his eyes out" and "slam his head on the ground."

In his first interview since his arrest on a child abuse charge, Struthers said Thursday the video leaves out what led up to the fight. He called it six months of "bullying" by the other boy in a dispute over a girl.

Struthers said the video doesn't reflect that for the whole six months, he and his wife, Kimberly Anne, told their teenager: "Son, you're not going to fight."

And Philip Struthers said the portion of the video posted on the Internet also leaves out something that happened just after the fists stopped flying: the fighters shook hands.

"The boys shook hands, all of them — not just the two," Struthers said, referring to a crowd that gathered at the weekend fight in his northwest Hillsborough County neighborhood.

Philip and Kimberly Struthers spoke Thursday in the Largo law offices of their attorney, John Trevena, who said his client did not commit any crimes.

"Does a father really have to apologize for asking his son to stand up to a bully?" Trevena asked.

"He never touched the kid. ... He's telling his kid to stand up against the bully," Trevena said. "What is wrong with that?"

Struthers, 41, a building contractor, was arrested Tuesday evening on charges of child abuse and contributing to the delinquency of a minor. A circuit judge ordered him to stay away from anyone under 18, including his son. He was released from a Hillsborough jail on Wednesday after posting a bond for $10,000.

The other boy in the fight could not be reached for comment Thursday. The Strutherses say they have not spoken to the boy's parents, and do not know how to get in touch with them.

The Strutherses tell a tale of a long-simmering dispute between the two teenagers, stemming from a girl they both knew, which led to a series of taunts and threats.

In their telling, the threats came in one direction — from the other boy toward their son.

In fact, Kimberly Struthers said, "There's a big sort of joke in our family that (he's) a lover not a fighter."

The dispute wasn't a case of hallway scuffles and stare-downs, the Strutherses said. The two boys go to different high schools.

The threats and taunts came through social media websites such as Facebook, or in other ways such as texting.

Rumors rippled across Facebook numerous times about how the boys were going to fight.

Recently, the Strutherses' son said he had learned that the day of the fight had come. And according to his father, "He reached a point where he knew it wasn't going away."

Over the weekend, the other boy and some friends came to the Strutherses' house. Their son and some friends were also there. That's when the fight began.

"When it happened and it went like it did, it got very emotional for me," Philip Struthers said.

He acknowledged that a "couple things I said I regret," including comments about punching eyes and slamming the head of the other boy.

On the other hand, he said he believes his son was the victim.

"I would do anything in my power to protect my son, my daughter, my wife, my entire family, without a doubt," he said.

The Strutherses said they did not contact police or school officials during the six months the dispute was simmering.

Kimberly Struthers said experience led them to believe, "They will take your information and they don't really do anything with it." And kids seem to find out about who is making complaints, which can make the disputes get even hotter.

"Nothing seems to be private," she said.

Philip Struthers said it has been difficult to deal with the video going viral, with local and national media continuing the barrage. When he sees the video, it doesn't even seem like him. "Thirty seconds of video, or whatever it was, should not define me."

He said he's not sure who shot or posted the video.

Asked to describe their household, the Strutherses said they like wholesome activities such as riding Sea-Doos, wakeboarding and gathering their son's friends on weekends to go out to eat.

They describe their son as a gentle, low-key, "under-the-radar kid" who plays football and does well in school.

Kimberly Struthers added one more thing. She said her son "has never been in a fight before. Never."

Curtis Krueger can be reached at ckrueger@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8232.

Hillsborough dad in fight video says his son was being bullied 04/14/11 [Last modified: Thursday, April 14, 2011 10:54pm]
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