Father charged for son's death during illegal street racing crash in St. Pete
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - The father of a 13-year-old who was hit and killed by a motorcycle in St. Petersburg has been charged with neglect. Investigators said the man brought his son to watch illegal street racing before the deadly crash.
Police said a crowd gathered Saturday, January 28, along 28th Street N and 110th Ave to watch drivers illegally race on city streets. According to officers, 34-year-old Johnny Julio Martin brought his son, Ethan, to watch.
Investigators said shortly after midnight, Ethan was trying to cross 28th Street but stepped into the path of a motorcycle going at least 100 miles an hour.
Johnny J. Martin (St. Pete PD)
Ethan was killed, and another bystander was hurt.
"It's really it's been really hard because he was 13 years old. We are going to be missing him [all the] time," said Francis Simpson, Ethan's mother, who shared custody of the boy with his father, adding she had no idea Ethan's father was taking him to this event. "I'm angry. [There are] no words to say to him."
Investigators are trying to determine if this street racing event stemmed from one that coincided with Gasparilla weekend in Tampa.
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Police believe many of the participants in the race that led to Ethan's death traveled from the Tampa area.
Johnny Martin has been charged with felony child neglect and street racing as a spectator.
"We take these things very seriously when we decide to charge a parent for something that happened as a result of their actions," said St. Petersburg Police Sgt. Michael Schade. "In this case, they knew it was a street racing event. He brought his son to an illegal event, allowed his son to watch this illegal event, and as a result of being there, resulted in the death of the son."
This arrest follows a crackdown by Tampa Police during Gasparilla weekend ended with 14 arrests. A week later, the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office announced a separate street racing bust that sent nine more people to jail. Guns and ammunition were confiscated in both investigations.
The motorcyclist who crashed into Ethan survived the accident and has not yet been charged. St. Pete police, however, said more arrests are pending.
"My son was a good boy... Every time he saw a sad kid, he was trying to help them talk to them," Simpson said, adding she's hopeful her heartbreak will be a lesson for others. "This has to be stopped. My son was today. Tomorrow can be another kid."