TAMPA, Fla. — Testimony got underway Tuesday in Tampa for the wrongful death lawsuit against the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office filed on behalf of Andrew Joseph III.
Andrew was 14 years old when he was struck by a car and killed while running across I-4 back in 2014 after being ejected from the Florida State Fair.
The first person to take the stand was Deanna Joseph, Andrew’s mother, who spoke about marriage, motherhood and the family’s deep religious faith.
They showed the jury several photos of Andrew as she testified from the time he was born to just days before his death.
“She had to hold it together and some of us who were watching couldn’t hold it together,” Melina Abdullah with Black Lives Matter said, who was in the courtroom watching some of the day’s testimony.
The Joseph family's attorneys then called Mark Clark to the stand, the former HCSO corporal who signed off on ejecting Andrew and his friends from the fair that night.
The incident started with what Clark thought was one of Andrew‘s friends smoking marijuana, but it turned out to only be a cigarette. Still, the teenagers were detained, processed, photographed and ultimately ejected from the state fair.
“ [You] Detain Andrew Joseph because you thought he was smoking marijuana? My heart broke when I heard that,” Beatrice Johnson, one of several demonstrators gathered at the federal courthouse to show their support for the Josephs, said.
Under questioning, Clark admitted there was nothing in their safety plan about what would happen after the teenagers were released outside the gates.
“We had to listen to the painful testimony of him contradicting himself, but eventually acknowledging that he dropped this child in an area where nobody can see,” Co-founder of Black Lives Matter Restoration Polk Inc. Pastor Carl Soto said.
Andrew's family stepped outside the courthouse briefly to thank people who had gathered to support them.
On Friday, attorneys for the family said they would be seeking a $30 million judgment in the case.
10 Tampa Bay also confirmed Tuesday that the other party originally named in the lawsuit, the Florida State Fairgrounds, had reached a last-minute settlement with the Joseph family Friday night.
This trial is expected to last about two weeks.