Sheriff must pay $15M for death of Florida teen outside fair

Posted at 12:14 PM, September 23, 2022 and last updated 3:04 PM, July 14, 2023

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — A Florida sheriff has been ordered by a jury to pay $15 million to the parents of a teenager who died while trying to cross a highway after being kicked out of the state fair by deputies.

The 10-person jury reached its verdict Thursday evening in Tampa federal court in the case of Andrew Joseph III, a Black 14-year-old who was killed on Interstate 4 in 2014 after he was booted from the Florida State Fair following a disturbance involving several teenagers.

The jury verdict culminates more than six years of court action. Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister, who could appeal the verdict, issued a statement Friday expressing sympathy for the Joseph family.

“Losing a child is a heartbreaking and eternal grief that no parent should have to face, and we continue to keep the Joseph family in our prayers,” Chronister said in an email.

The jury found Chronister’s department 90% responsible for the child’s death, with Joseph assigned 10%. The money will be split evenly between his parents, Andrew Joseph Jr. and Deanna Joseph.

“That child didn’t do nothing wrong,” Joseph Jr. said after the verdict, according to media outlets. “Fifteen million (dollars) put some respect on it.”

“We are elated at this moment,” Deanna Joseph added.

The teenager wound up on Interstate 4 after he and others were kicked out of the fair for what deputies described as an altercation that included knocking over fair patrons and stealing from vendors.

Attorneys for the defendants said Joseph refused an offer for a ride from his football coach and instead decided to try to cross the highway to reach the main gate.

“It was not foreseeable that someone would leave and enter the interstate,” attorney Robert Fulton said.

The plaintiffs’ attorney said the boy should never have been placed in such a vulnerable situation by authorities.

“A kid should never have been put in this position,” attorney Chris Anulewicz told the jury. “He should not have been put in the position of trying to do this on his own.”