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Lawyer says 14-year-old Andrew Joseph III had been handcuffed and detained shortly before death

7:59 PM, Feb 18, 2014   |    comments
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Tampa, Florida -- A letter from the Dallas law firm of Kelley Witherspoon says reports about the tragic death of 14-year-old Andrew Joseph III omit important background information.

The law office claims to have conducted its own investigation, and makes several new, alarming accusations.

The firm says Andrew Joseph III, who was ejected along with dozens of "wilding" teens from the Florida State Fair on February 7, was "handcuffed and detained." It further states that Hillsborough County Sheriff's deputies then "threatened Joseph, III with a Taser weapon."

The sheriff's office colonel handling the case, Jim Previtera, says it's not true.

Previtera says he wouldn't blame deputies if they had pulled a Taser to defend themselves that night, but that he has no reports to support the accusation of any individual being threatened.

Previtera says Joseph was one of several teens thrown out, but not arrested or detained, and that the deputy who handled the 14-year-old says Joseph was not handcuffed.

"Deputies had their hands on people and were trying to handcuff people, but had to disengage and let them go because of the crowd," said Col. Previtera.

Those who were handcuffed, says Previtera, were arrested. And Joseph was not among those arrested.

"All of what's on the video supports what our deputies and what witnesses have told us," said Previtera.

The letter also suggests for the first time, that Joseph was escorted someplace other than the fair.

According to the Joseph family's attorney, deputies "transported him away," and that they "released Andrew Joseph III in Tampa, Florida."

The sheriff's office says the letter is misleading and that Joseph wasn't led away or released just anyplace in Tampa, but rather at Gate 4 of the Fairgrounds, 900 feet from the midway.

"They didn't have time to drive them all over Tampa and drop them off," said Previtera.

Col. Previtera says the public will be able to judge for itself how little time his deputies had to try to regain order at the fair.

They plan to share half a dozen videos posted on social media of the melee that took place on the midway later Tuesday and at another public meeting later this week.

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