Family of Winter Park teen files wrongful death lawsuit

Roger Trindade, 15, died after being beaten in 2016

ORLANDO, Fla. – The family of a teenager beaten and killed in downtown Winter Park has filed a wrongful death lawsuit.

Winter Park police said Roger Trindade, 15, was found unconscious in Central Park on Oct. 15, 2016, just steps away from a busy shopping and dining area.

In June, a jury convicted Jesse Sutherland and Simeon Hall, both 16, of manslaughter and battery.

A judge sentenced them to juvenile detention.

"I think it's a shame," said Rodrigo Trindade, Roger's father, moments after the judge handed down the sentence.

Rodrigo Trindade has been critical of the justice system, and now, he and his family have filed a wrongful death lawsuit in Orange County court.

According to the lawsuit, the Trindades claim the City of Winter Park failed to provide adequate security in the Central Park area.

They claim Orange County Public Schools failed to enforce its own student code of conduct, pointing out that many in the group of teenagers that had gathered that night had a pattern of questionable behavior with the school district.

The suit claims "Orange County School Board created a zone of danger, which encompassed Central Park by allowing gangs involving many of the defendants to exist."

The lawsuit targets the teens who were convicted of Trindade's death, other teens who the parents claim were gathered that night and the teens' parents -- ultimately blaming them for the death of their son.

The parents are seeking a jury trial and damages as a result.

Trindade family attorney Steve Kirschner said they want the City of Winter Park and Orange County School Board to change policies in a way that will not only identify problematic children, but correct and punish their troublesome behavior.

Kirschner said current Orange County School Board procedures "coddle" violent students and in return, their behavior becomes more brazen as they do not fear punishment.

"Punishment must meet the behavior. That is not the case now and nor was it the case in 2016, when the OCSB let Roger Trindade and his parents down in the worst way," Kirschner said.

Reform is what the Trindade family wants, according to Kirschner.

"There needs to be better outreach between police and youth. There needs to be better identification of troubled youth and programs that include parents and guardians. Parents and guardians need the tools necessary to better supervise and nurture their children," Kirschner said.

Hiring more social workers, psychiatrists and psychologists to assist the city and police agencies are some of the actions Kirschner said could be taken to meet those goals.

News 6 contacted the City of Winter Park and Orange County Public Schools for a comment, and they have yet to respond.

About the Author:

Erik Sandoval joined the News 6 team as a reporter in May 2013. He is one of the station’s lead reporters. During his time at News 6, Erik has covered several major stories, including the 2016 Presidential campaign. He was also one of the first reporters live on the air at the Pulse Nightclub shooting.