TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Black Lives Matter groups held a press conference on Wednesday discussing a lawsuit that alleges the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office is responsible for a 14-year-old Tampa boy’s death in 2014.
Representatives from Black Lives Matter Restoration Polk and Black Lives Matter Grassroots were joined by families of Black individuals whose lives were impacted by “police brutality and racial injustice” to discuss the wrongful death lawsuit filed by Andrew Joseph III’s family.
The speakers called for an end to qualified immunity, which the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office repeatedly invoked in this case. Qualified immunity is a government protection that shields police officers and other officials from being sued. It can also block the release of information.
“In my years of activism, I have had the unfortunate opportunity to work with countless families who have been impacted by police misconduct, police brutality and how these law-enforcement agencies are able to lean on qualified immunity in order to deprive families like the families behind me, and the Andrew Joseph family from the right to justice and accountability,” said Pastor Carl Soto with Black Lives Matter Restoration Polk County Inc.
Andrew Joseph III and about 100 other teenagers were kicked out of the Florida State Fairgrounds on “School Day” in 2014 “following a number of teen-involved fights and misconduct that broke out inside the fairgrounds,” according to the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office.
However, his parents maintain that their son wasn’t involved, but was handcuffed and detained. They said deputies dropped him off by the interstate to meet his ride home. The 14-year-old was hit by a car while trying to cross I-4.
“A number of safety measures have been taken at the fairgrounds since that incident to ensure that any minor in attendance is safe, such as the HCSO Community Action Team that will once again be at the fair on Student Night,” the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office said in a statement to News Channel 8 earlier this year.
The Josephs said they’ve seen changes in the fairgrounds’ policy since that night, like parents getting a call if their child is removed from the park and having them sit in a waiting area until their parents arrive. They wish their son had been given that option, avoiding what they say was an unnecessary interaction with police.
Wednesday marked day three of the wrongful death trial. The Black Lives Matter groups met outside the federal courthouse in Tampa along with the families of Emmett Till, Oscar Grant, Breonna Taylor, Jacob Blake, Markeis McGlockton and Ruben Debrosse.
Families rallied demanding change, saying their loved ones suffered the same racial injustice at the hands of law enforcement, including the family of Emmett Till.
“Emmett was killed by a white mob and the police covered it up and again we’re seeing attempts to cover up again 66 years later, the same type of cover-up,” said Till’s cousin Magnolia Carter. “I stand for justice, I want to see the end of qualified immunity and I want to see the justice for this family that they deserve.”