A Florida jury has awarded $15 million to the parents of a young Black boy who was fatally struck by a car after deputies kicked him out of a state fair, having found the Hillsborough County sheriff’s office responsible for damages.
The parents of Andrew Joseph III, a 14-year-old Black boy who died back in February 2014, will split the award 50/50, saying they were “elated” at the victory and called the verdict a “day of vindication.”
“That child didn’t do nothing wrong. Fifteen million [dollars] put some respect on it,” the boy’s father Andrew Joseph Jr. told the press. “We are elated at this moment,” his mother Deanna Joseph added, according to the Atlanta Black Star.
Last Thursday, ten jurors serving a Tampa federal court reached a verdict in the premature death of Joseph III, after he was struck by a car while attempting to cross the Interstate 4 highway eight years ago.
CBS 12 News reports that the boy had just been removed from the Florida State Fair by officers in the moments leading up to his death.
14-year-old Andrew Joseph III lost his life being labeled a criminal and not a child: https://t.co/N1Ax3pgNL3 pic.twitter.com/McQdbsmEA9
— The Root (@TheRoot) February 6, 2016
Joseph III was a the fair to attend Student Day, a longstanding tradition where children can get in for free, according to the outlet.
Verdict Brings An End To Years Of Debate Regarding Boy’s Death, Many Called Him A Child, Others A Criminal
The verdict comes after years of debate regarding the boy’s death, with many in the Black Lives Matter camp calling it senseless, while others attempted to paint the child as a criminal.
Deputies said the boy and a few others teens were tossed from the fair for “wilding” or causing a disturbance, having knocked over fellow fair patrons and reportedly stealing from vendors.
Officers reportedly grabbed two of his friends before kicking him out. He was allegedly caught because he helped pick up another boy’s hat after he dropped it while they were running.
However, authorities have been criticized for their portrayal of the boy, who many argued was being labeled as a criminal and not a child, despite his young age, according to a 2016 editorial by The Root.
Love this photo from @LuisSantana as the main image on our story tonight from the Andrew Joseph III case.
Wrote about this moment at the top of the story, it was really representative of the scene after so many long years.https://t.co/pL1Vvl3Yto pic.twitter.com/7ZLgcWXvjg
— Matt Cohen (@Matt_Cohen_) September 23, 2022
Family Of Boy Killed After State Fair Ejection Claim His Civil Rights Were Violated By Deputies
Deputed detained and ejected Jospeh, which his parents claim violated his civil rights.
Joseph and about 99 other teenagers were questioned and photographed before being removed from the fair and taken home, the Atlanta Black Star reports.
The defense claims that the boy was offered a ride from his football coach after being kicked out of the fair, but he ultimately turned it down.
Instead, he opted to try and cross the highway on his own, but was struck by an SUV before he could make it across the expressway to the main gate.
The defendant’s attorney, Robert Fulton, who represented the deputies, told the outlet that “It was not foreseeable that someone would leave and enter the interstate.”
Meanwhile, the plaintiff’s lawyers argued that authorities should have never placed the boy in that situation in the first place, and should have been safely escorted across the busy highway or held until a ride showed up.
At the federal courthouse in downtown Tampa, @HCSOSheriff is being put on trial by the parents of Andrew Joseph III, a Black teenager who was killed by a car after being removed from the fair by sheriff deputies. The trial has been 6 years in the makinghttps://t.co/2KrFKCJWmv pic.twitter.com/TdM1KcHMlk
— Justin Garcia (@JustinGarciaFL) September 12, 2022
“A kid should never have been put in this position,” the family’s attorney Chris Anulewicz said in closing arguments. “He should not have been put in the position of trying to do this on his own. They owed Andrew a duty not to place him in a dangerous situation, and they did not do that.”
Authorities Claimed Boy’s Own Decisions Caused His Death, And Not Any Police Officers
On the other hand, the defense maintained that the boy’s own decisions caused him to die, and added that the officers “did not cause Andrew’s injury,” nor did they “cause his death.”
“We’re not devaluing the loss of the Joseph family,” Fulton said. “Nothing that has been presented over the last eight days has changed that fact that Cpl. Clark did not cause Andrew injury and the sheriff did not cause his death.”
Today we remember Andrew Joseph III. We can NOT tolerate one more killing. #justiceforpeewee #blacklivesmatter pic.twitter.com/3tMm8oMrfT
— Fight for 15 Florida (@FightFor15FL) February 5, 2016
However, the jury ultimately found the department to be 90 percent responsible for the teen’s death, and that he was culpable for 10 percent of the responsibility, the Black Star reports.
Joseph’s parents thanked “God for ears that heard this case,” and thanked the judge and jury as well following the verdict.
“We thank God for the judge. We thank God for the jury. We thank God for ears that heard this case,” the father said, according to ABC Action News.
A portion of the money will be donated to the Andrew Joseph Foundation, according to the outlet.
The sheriff’s office can appeal the verdict.