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Father arrested after teen son killed at St. Petersburg street racing event

Johnny Julio Martin, 35, faces a charge of child neglect after bringing his son Ethan, 13, to an illegal race, where the boy was struck by a motorcycle, police said.
 
Johnny Julio Martin, 35, was arrested on Wednesday on a charge of child neglect. St. Petersburg police say Martin took his 13-year-old son Ethan Julio Martin to a street racing event on Jan. 29, where the boy was struck and killed by a motorcycle traveling more than 100 mph.
Johnny Julio Martin, 35, was arrested on Wednesday on a charge of child neglect. St. Petersburg police say Martin took his 13-year-old son Ethan Julio Martin to a street racing event on Jan. 29, where the boy was struck and killed by a motorcycle traveling more than 100 mph. [ St. Petersburg Police Department ]
Published Feb. 9, 2023|Updated Feb. 10, 2023

A father has been arrested after he brought his teen son to a street race in St. Petersburg, where the boy was struck and killed by a motorcyclist going more than 100 mph, police said.

Johnny Julio Martin, 35, of Tampa, was arrested Wednesday on a child neglect charge in the death of Ethan Julio Martin, 13, according to a news release from the St. Petersburg Police Department.

Related: Tampa Bay street races often are posted online for attention. A new law makes it evidence.

On Jan. 28, a crowd formed on 28th Street North near 110th Avenue North for illegal street racing, police said. At 12:35 a.m., Ethan Martin crossed 28th Street into the path of a motorcyclist. The motorcyclist struck and killed Ethan Martin and seriously injured another bystander, who took himself to a local hospital for treatment, police said.

The motorcyclist, whom police have not named, has been treated and released, said Yolanda Fernandez, a St. Petersburg police spokesperson. Fernandez declined to say if the motorcyclist will be charged in the crash, citing an ongoing investigation.

According to an arrest affidavit, Johnny Martin did not adequately watch his son while at the illegal event. Johnny Martin left his son to cross to the other side of the street, and the teen was struck as he crossed the street to join his father, the affidavit states.

Videos of the incident obtained by the Tampa Bay Times show the speeding motorcycle striking Ethan Martin. One of the videos shows Johnny Martin screaming and clutching his unresponsive son after the crash.

Martin also received a citation for street racing as a spectator.

Records show Martin was released from jail after posting $10,000 bail. Efforts by the Times to reach him for comment Thursday were not successful. Efforts to reach family members of Johnny and Ethan Martin on Thursday also were unsuccessful.

Related: What to know about Tampa Bay street racing after child killed at race, dad arrested

The roadway on 28th Street is a well-known place for people to gather and watch illegal street racing, according to the affidavit.

Sgt. Michael Schade with the St. Petersburg Police Department’s traffic unit said the agency arrested Martin because he took his son to an illegal event and his son died as a result.

”While we have a grieving father, we also have a grieving mother (and) grieving grandparents,” he said. ”When we do this type of an arrest of a parent who just lost a child, it’s something that we take very seriously and we make sure that when we do it, there’s a very justified reason for the charge.”

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Schade also declined to comment on whether anyone else will be charged in connection to the street racing event.

Ethan J. Martin is seen in a screenshot of his obituary on legacy.com. Martin, 13, was killed on Jan. 29 when he was struck by a speeding motorcycle at a street racing event in St. Petersburg, according to police.
Ethan J. Martin is seen in a screenshot of his obituary on legacy.com. Martin, 13, was killed on Jan. 29 when he was struck by a speeding motorcycle at a street racing event in St. Petersburg, according to police. [ legacy.com ]

Ethan Martin lived in Tampa and was an eighth grader at Endeavor Academy, a school for students in the sixth through 12th grades in Brooksville, and his favorite subject was math, according to his obituary.

The obituary calls Ethan an energetic boy who loved fishing and the outdoors, especially the beach.

”He made an instant impact on everyone who met him and on thousands who never will,” the obituary said. “May everyone remember Ethan for the light he shone on all of our hearts, for now and for forever.”

Prior to attending Endeavor Academy, he was a student at Winding Waters K-8 in Brooksville, according to a Hernando County School district spokesperson. Winding Waters staff members released a statement through the spokesperson.

“Ethan was a vibrant, funny and loyal student,” the statement said. “He was well liked by his peers and teachers. During his time at Winding Waters, he was a student leader. He left a lasting imprint at our school and in our lives. He will be greatly missed.”

Times staff writers Tony Marrero and Natalie Weber contributed to this report.