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Alan Grayson says he may call for federal investigation on incident at Florida State Fair

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

On February 7, 2014, 14-year-old Andrew Joseph III was killed as he tried to cross Interstate 4 in Tampa just west of U.S. Highway 301 – after being kicked out of the Florida State Fair for alleged disorderly conduct.

The teen was one of more than 100 young people ejected that night after deputies said a stampede of teenagers had rushed through the Midway.

His father, Andrew Joseph II, has spoken out about the incident over the past year and a half, saying that the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office and the fair authority were responsible for his son, who he says was wrongfully arrested and ejected from the fair. He’s outraged that the sheriff’s department never called the parents of those black teenagers for a ride home before they were left to fend for themselves.

Joseph, who lives in Riverview, has been a constant presence at press events over the past few months as media attention has focused on local law enforcement and the black community, fueled by a Tampa Bay Times report about how the Tampa Police Department had disproportionately arrested blacks for bicycle infractions. Joseph says he’s grown weary of failing to gain the attention of those who might hold the Sheriff’s Department accountable.

But he may have finally found a champion for his cause in Alan Grayson.

The Orlando Democratic U.S. Rep. and U.S. Senate candidate Alan Grayson said on Monday afternoon that he now may call for a Justice Department investigation to uncover what happened in Andrew Joseph III’s death.

“There’s a racial element to this that needs to be thoroughly investigated, since the children who were arrested were black, and the officers who arrested them were white,” said Grayson, who met with Joseph and other local activists (including members of the Black Lives Matter movement) at the Bricks, a funky bar/restaurant in Tampa’s Ybor City, before later speaking before the Hillsborough County Democratic Executive Committee.

“I’m going to be honest with you — the idea of taking a 14-year-old boy, dropping him off out of a car from where he was, with no practical way to get back in touch with people, to get to any place of safety, seems like inappropriate conduct,” Grayson said.

Joseph said he has spoken with Hillsborough County Sheriff David Gee about the incident, and U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor. “This is something that doesn’t go away,” he said. “This could have been prevented with one call, and my child would be alive.”

Grayson also met with local activists Donna Davis and Leila Abdelaziz about the situation involving the creation of a police civilian review board in Tampa. Controversy has centered around the fact that Mayor Bob Buckhorn wants to name the majority of the members of the board. Some members of the City Council say they have the legal authority to name those board members.

“We are here trying to marshal in a genuinely civilian appointed review board that is not commandeered by the mayor,” said Davis, the co-chair of the Black Lives Matter chapter in Tampa. “It’s very important that we center the voices of the community that are affected, that the stakeholders take the forefront and they are not left behind in these conversations. And we are here to make sure those voices are centered.”

Grayson said that it’s important to hold law enforcement accountable, and said that’s why county sheriffs have to run for office every four years. “We need a group of people who are independent, who are actually responsible and answerable to the community,” he said. “So who have some kind of actual, independent authority. That’s the only way things like this actually work.”

A handful of Black Lives Matter activists protested outside the Tampa Palms Country Club nine days ago when Grayson’s top Democratic Senate opponent, Patrick Murphy, spoke before the Hillsborough County Democratic Executive Committee.

Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served as five years as the political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. He also was the assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley. He's a San Francisco native who has now lived in Tampa for 15 years and can be reached at mitch.perry@floridapolitics.com.

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