By Camille Syed
GAINESVILLE, Fla. (WCJB) – After facing health issues his whole life, 14-year-old Austin Booth got a ride he’ll never forget and hopefully his classmates won’t forget either. Austin’s mother, Angelia Booth, said doctors told her he wouldn’t live to be eight or nine. “It’s been a struggle and it’s been hard,” expressed Booth. “He is a terminal child. Unfortunately, he has multiple organ failure, lung failure, heart failure, and multiple other issues that play along inside of him.” She said some at keystone heights high school treats him differently because of his condition and The Punishers LEMC hoped to put a stop to the bullying. As the bells rang today, the entire school got to see Austin ride off with the big guys.
“I’m hoping to let these kids know it’s not okay to pick on someone because they may be a little bit different or act a little different,” explained Captain, Phillip King. Booth said kids kick him and tell him he’s not cool enough, which causes him to suffer from PTSD and depression as well.
“He’ll leave his wheelchair and his backpack there and then go get a tray of food and come back and they’ll make him move so he has to go sit by himself,” added Booth. She said hearing these things breaks her heart. “I have PTSD just like him,” explained Booth. “Because it brings me to tears to know my son went through this and the struggles that he has just to make friends. Everybody that comes here, he tries to be their first friend.”
Now Austin is a member of The Punishers for life. “He’s a young kid who seems to get a lot of the shorthand of stick so we’re here to show him that we love him, care for him,” added King. “A lot of us have taken in and realized that our problems aren’t as big as fearless. I mean this boy here…he’s had a tough go. So it just helps you realize maybe things aren’t bad as you think.”
Mrs. Booth is excited that Austin is apart of the family. “He’s now just inherited a million aunts and uncles.” He now has the best friends a 14-year-old could ever have.
A police spokeswoman said some riders have been injured and even killed, but she did not have statistics on how many. Some also have been arrested on charges of eluding the police and breaking the rules of the road. The mayor says he’s seen them racing their bikes at breakneck speeds just for fun. “It’s a big thrill coming down the bridge and whizzing past cars,” he said. “But it’s a nightmare for those who are walking and those [drivers] on the road.” Vice Mayor Steve Glassman pushed for a stronger police presence during a recent public meeting.
Glassman says he’s gotten complaints about everything from Harleys to dirt bikes and so-called crotch rockets, the street name for high-speed sport bikes that zoom along at more than 100 mph. Commissioner Ben Sorensen lives in the Rio Vista neighborhood, just three houses east of Federal Highway south of Broward Boulevard, and he hears them roaring along in his next of the woods, too. “It’s mostly at night,” he said. “It’s increased in frequency in the past couple years. It’s probably a daily occurrence.” Bill Brown, president of the Central Beach Alliance, says the motorcycle problem is the group’s top complaint to City Hall. “They remove their mufflers so they’re really loud,” he said. “You can still hear it high up in the condos. Our residents should be entitled to a peaceful life.