Sheriff Looks to Black Leaders for State Fair Help

My Fox Tampa Bay, February 11, 2014

Hillsborough County’s sheriff is reaching out to local African-American leaders after “unprecedented incidents of violence and disorder” that forced deputies to shut down the Florida State Fair early on Friday night.

Deputies say dozens if not hundreds of teens were involved in a “wilding” event at the fair’s opening night, fighting with each other while assaulting and robbing other fairgoers. The chaos got so bad that the 200 deputies on hand could not contain it, Sheriff David Gee wrote.

Ninety-nine people were ejected, and 12 were arrested.

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“The overwhelming number of youth and young adults arrested or ejected from the midway for misconduct were African-American,” Gee explained, “and I recognize the responsibility to address this issue and ensure the circumstances are not repeated in the future.”

The sheriff’s office came under scrutiny for its response after one of the ejected teens was hit and killed while trying to cross neighboring Interstate 4.

[Editor’s Note: Here are the letters the sheriff sent to black organizations. The Tampa Bay Times has a more detailed story about the initial wilding. Here are some excerpts:

A commander with 30 years of experience, Maj. Tom Feeney, said it’s the worst thing he has seen in law enforcement. He asked the Florida State Fair Authority to shut down the fair around 9 p.m.

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Teens were stealing candy apples and throwing them at deputies, Previtera said. One tried to launch a hand truck at a deputy, and another robbed a woman in a wheelchair of her purse, he said.

{snip}

Deputies probably would have arrested more people, Previtera said, but they often had to disengage for their own safety.

Also, Fox 13’s Ken Suarez noted on Twitter that “97 of the 99 young people thrown out of the Florida State Fair last weekend because of wilding were black.” He also pointed out that “The Hillsborough County School Board just decided to launch an education campaign to prevent Wilding at the Florida State Fair.”]

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