TAMPA (FOX 13) - The death of a teenager who was kicked out of the Florida State Fair might lead to a U.S. Department of Justice investigation into allegations of racial profiling by the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office, U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson said Tuesday.
At a news conference Grayson, D-Orlando, said he received a letter last month from the DOJ in response to his request for a federal investigation into whether deputies violated the civil rights of Andrew Joseph III, 14, when he was kicked out of the fair and if the agency is guilty of racial profiling.
In the letter, Assistant Attorney General Peter Kadzik wrote to Grayson that the DOJ would not be opening a civil rights investigation.
On the matter of racial profiling, however, Kadzik wrote, "the Department's Special Litigation Section will consider your letter in determining whether to investigation the [Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office]."
"I regard this as a small ray of hope," Grayson said, "and am pleased that the Department of Justice and the FBI indicates that they're willing to investigate the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office."
Andrew Joseph III was kicked out of the fair in February 2014 after a group of more than 100 teenagers caused a stampede during Student Day.
The teen's family said deputies drove him away from the fair and let him out of the cruiser. Later that day, Joseph was killed when he was hit by a car as he tried to cross I-4.
"My heart is broken today because I had dreams for my son," said Deanna Joseph, the teenager's mother. "We are his family. We will fight to the end. We will get answers for his death and someone will be held acocuntable."
"We're not standing for it no more! Enough is enough!" added the teen's father, also named Andrew Joseph. "It's the most hurtful feeling in the world as a father, as a family, to have to go to the graveyard to visit your child."
A spokesperson for the sheriff's office said there are "numerous factual errors in their allegations," but wouldn't comment further because the Josephs are suing the agency other than to say the agency is looking forward to addressing the issues in court.
Grayson said if the DOJ is going to take action it would have to do so within five years of the incident due to the statute of limitations.