VIGIL

Tampa Bay Times - - From The Front Page - Con­tact Tony Mar­rero at tmar­[email protected] tam­pabay.com or (813) 226-3374. Fol­low @tmar­rerotimes.

said. But the sher­iff ’s ve­hi­cle ended up strik­ing an­other teen. The teens were cross­ing the road north of the cross­walk, of­fi­cials said.

Ro­jas said she wants to know more about an ac­count from at least one wit­ness who told her the un­der­cover deputy was speed­ing at the time of the col­li­sion and left im­me­di­ately after the crash and came back shortly after. In a news con­fer­ence after the crash, Chief Deputy Donna Lusczyn­ski said the un­der­cover deputy never left the area. An­other deputy in a marked pa­trol car also was in the area and stopped at the scene.

In­ves­ti­ga­tors were work­ing to an­a­lyze data on the car’s com­puter to de­ter­mine the un­der­cover deputy’s speed at the time of crash, Lusczyn­ski said.

Ro­jas said Josiah and his 14-year-old best friend had just left Josiah’s fa­ther’s house and were headed to the other boy’s house to hang out. The friend lived in the Hal­l­i­day Vil­lage mo­bile home park on the west side of Flor­ida Av­enue, Ro­jas said. They al­most made it there when Josiah was struck.

“He’s trau­ma­tized,” Ro­jas said of the other boy. “He and my son were to­gether ev­ery day.”

Ro­jas, who shared cus­tody of Josiah with his fa­ther and lives about five min­utes from the crash scene, said her son helped her around the house and looked out for his three lit­tle sis­ters, Di­ana, 12, Jaliyah, 10, and Iyanah, 7. He was their pro­tec­tor, Ro­jas said, and they looked up to him.

In their last con­ver­sa­tion, Josiah had called from school and told his mother that one of his sis­ters needed to stop play­ing around at school and fo­cus.

The boy loved to play bas­ket­ball, cheer for the Bucs and the Rays and spent hours play­ing the video game Fort­nite. He was ex­cited that his fa­ther, Jay Pin­ner, had just cel­e­brated the birth of a son.

“He said, ‘Ha ha, I’m not the only boy any­more’,” Ro­jas re­called. “I said, ‘It’s okay, you’re al­ways go­ing to be the old­est.’ “

The black pit­bull Josiah got for Christ­mas and named Mid­night seems to be griev­ing with the rest of the fam­ily, Ro­jas said.

About 100 friends and fam­ily gath­ered at the crash scene Satur­day evening for a candlelight vigil in Josiah’s honor. Some wore red and black, his fa­vorite col­ors, and T-shirts bear­ing photo images of the boy.

As the crowd gath­ered around dozens of can­dles, Ro­jas let out an­guished cries and two young teenage boys sobbed to­gether. Rev. Sheila Blanco-Pe­drosa of Light of God In­ter­faith Church urged mourn­ers to sup­port the fam­ily and wait for re­sults of the in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

“Re­mem­ber as a group we are strong,” she said. “As a com­mu­nity we are strong. … Tampa strong. Josiah strong.”

Stephanie Bai­ley, who lives in Hal­l­i­day Vil­lage, said a num­ber of kids in the area cross Flor­ida Av­enue on their bikes, go­ing be­tween neigh­bor­hoods and play­ing tag and man­hunt.

“We’re dev­as­tated,” she said. “I think there needs to be some more blink­ing lights up here to let these kids cross Flor­ida Av­enue safely. With the neigh­bor­hood pop­u­lated with so many kids, how can you not have flash­ing lights?”

Ear­lier Satur­day, Ro­jas said she was work­ing to bal­ance her own grief with her re­spon­si­bil­i­ties as a mother.

“I have to hold it to­gether for the girls,” she said.

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