Teen’s mother, deputy trade accusations in Florida State Fair incident

The mother says her 14-year-old daughter was assaulted by a deputy on Student Day. The Sheriff’s Office said the girl assaulted the deputy, but will not be prosecuted.
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Published February 12
Updated February 13

TAMPA — The mother of a 14-year-old girl took to Facebook on Monday to accuse a Hillsborough sheriff’s deputy of tackling and assaulting her daughter at the Florida State Fair this past weekend.

The Hillsborough Sheriff’s Office responded on Tuesday night, saying that it is investigating the incident that took place Friday on the evening of Student Day.

The agency also said the teen was ejected from the Florida State Fairgrounds at 4800 U.S. 301 and that a deputy who suffered facial injuries while detaining the 14-year-old girl will not press charges.

FROM 2014: Dad of teen killed after being tossed from state fair criticizes authorities

The teenager’s mother, Rhonda Howard Lewis, posted video of the alleged incident and photos of her daughter’s face to Facebook and pleaded for help figuring out what to do next.

“My daughter was running the police grabbed her they slammed her on the ground they choked her they broke a gate with a side of her face and they hit her my daughter is only 14 years old!” she wrote in the post. “Does anyone have any suggestions we need help right now!”

The mother said in the post that her daughter was running away because some boys were trying to fight her daughter — then the daughter heard one of them had a gun. The mother did not identify her daughter in the Facebook post or return a request for comment from the Tampa Bay Times.

The Sheriff’s Office gave this account: It said the deputy, whose name was not made public, trespassed the girl from the Florida State Fairgrounds after she battered a law enforcement officer.

The Sheriff’s Office said it became aware of the video on Monday, and then the mother filed an official complaint against the deputy. An internal investigation has been launched, the agency said. No other information was released by the agency.

The 30-second cellphone video the mother posted is a recording of video played back on a separate phone. The blurry video shows a deputy taking a teen girl to the ground. Other nearby teens scream and yell in astonishment.

FROM 2016: Two years after Andrew Joseph III, 14, died outside the Florida State Fair, his parents’ fight is just starting

The issue of Student Day, teens and security at the Florida State Fair reached a flashpoint in 2014 when 14-year-old Andrew Joseph III was one of nearly 100 students ejected from the fairgrounds the evening of Student Day.

Deputies dropped him off about two miles from the fair, and he was killed while trying to cross Interstate 4 to get back to the fairgrounds to meet his ride. His parents maintain that his ejection was a mistake, and in 2016 sued the Sheriff’s Office, accusing the agency of being responsible for their son’s death.

Contact McKenna Oxenden at [email protected] Follow @mack_oxenden.