Tampa, FL – On May 6, Tampa Bay Community Action Committee (TBCAC) held a vigil with the family of Jonas Joseph and supporters for the third-year anniversary of his death. Joseph was 26 when he was killed by the Tampa Police Department on April 28, 2020 after four officers fired 125 shots at him, 62 hitting him. Vigil attendees wore shirts with Joseph’s face, brought Haitian flags, candles, rosaries and signs to honor him and uplift the demands of the family.
The Tampa Police Department pulled Joseph over after profiling his car and shot him from behind while he was parked in his car at his house. Police released statements about the murder that contradict with the evidence, saying that Joseph tried to drive away and another stating that he shot at the police. The only casings found at the scene were that of the officers who emptied their magazines into the car. A witness reports that Tampa Police Department units pulled up to his home and started shooting in less than a minute.
The former Florida State Attorney Andrew Warren declined to prosecute the officers involved back in 2020. His statement did not confirm the police findings, yet still upheld the actions of the Tampa Police Department.
“Police in Tampa harass and target Black kids, they harass and ticket Black folks for walking, for biking, for driving. They tell landlords to kick families out of their homes. They killed Jonas Joseph because he was Black. The Tampa Police Department does everything short of publicly stating that Black folks don’t deserve to live,” says TBCAC member Laura Rodriguez.
The Tampa Police Department carried out “renting while Black” in 2021, a program in which they told landlords when tenants were arrested, causing entire families to be evicted even if the charges were dropped or there was no conviction. At the same time, they were under investigation by the Department of Justice for the “biking while Black” program.
The Joseph family was joined by the Tampa families of Andrew Joseph III and Josiah Pinner. Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office was found legally responsible in the death of 14-year-old Andrew Joseph III, who died while crossing Interstate 4 after being wrongfully arrested, photographed and ejected from the Florida State fair without informing a parent or guardian. 15-year-old Josiah Pinner was hit and killed by Phillip Montesi, a Hillsborough County Sherriff’s officer, who was driving 21 mph over the speed limit in an undercover car.
“125 shots, three years later, zero answers,” says the father of Andrew Joseph III. “We stand in solidarity with the Joseph family. We are here for the long run. We know in these hours it gets very dark. There’s a lot of confusion in the community, in the home, when someone is taken from you like this. At what point is enough enough? When death knocks on your doorstep, it’s way too late.”
Tampa Bay Community Action Committee and the family continue to demand the following: the release of the autopsy report to the family, the release of any police footage to the family, for the Florida state attorney to reopen the case, for the officers involved to be charged and convicted.
Laura Rodriguez closed the vigil by saying, “ Now more than ever we need community control of the police. We need to have a say in which cops are fired, we need to have a say in how they are investigated, we need to have a say in who protects us. We need to have a say in Tampa because enough is enough.”