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Parents of teen killed after 2014 state fair 'student Night' still calling for change

Andrew Joseph III’s parents held a protest out at the fairgrounds on Friday in their son’s honor

TAMPA, Fla. — Andrew Joseph III was killed nearly a decade ago after a night out at the fair.

His parents held a protest out at the Florida State Fairgrounds on Friday in their son’s honor, still calling out the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office and the fair for what they say is "neglect."

"Our family has changed because there’s no peace," Joseph's mother Deanna said. "We can’t move on, we can’t move forward."

Andrew's father, with whom he shares the same name says, "It’s the hardest thing in the world to accept that your child is dead.”

But that’s the world Deanna and Andrew Joseph Jr. have been living in since Feb. 8, 2014.

Andrew III was one of about 100 minors kicked off of state fairgrounds on what was called “student night” after some teens were accused of rushing the midway and starting fights.  

Andrew was hit and killed by an SUV while trying to cross over Interstate 4 in the dark. 

His parents say no one from the sheriff's office called to tell them that so many students had put been put out and that he needed to be picked up.

“Abandoned alongside the highway. They wouldn’t do that to a dog," his father said. "So we’re not out here fighting for human rights, at this point, we’ll settle for animal rights.”

Andrew’s family wants to make sure their son didn’t die in vain.  They want the fair to issue an apology and make a commitment plan on safety changes. 

They are also asking people to sign this petition that calls for an end to qualified immunity, a legal immunity that can protect government officials, like law enforcement officers, from civil lawsuits.

“I always just figured that there was just still protection and people had respect for children," Deanna said. "He wasn’t a vagrant child who was trespassing as they would like the news to convey.”

Every day, these parents are still living in the nightmare that changed their life.

“They asked me to call his phone, and that’s how I was able to identify him," his father said. "Because the phone was ringing in the deceased body down at the morgue.”

But, they both say Andrew wouldn’t be surprised that they were still advocating in his name.

When asked if she would continue the push for action, his mother said, "I have to, there are no other options.”

Andrew’s parents say he was driven off of the property in a "paddy wagon" before being left near the roadway. 

We reached out to the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office, and they contend “he was never driven from the fair by a law enforcement officer.”

When we reached out to the fair for a response, they said they could not comment on pending litigation.

Andrew's parents have started a non-profit foundation in his name. 

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