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| Crime |

Video: Flea Market Carny Who Tussled With Guests Is Arrested and Charged

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Opa-locka Hialeah Flea Market is the place to go if you're looking for a great big (and potentially violent) show.

Last month, an eight-minute video made the rounds on social media, showing a Ferris wheel operator at the flea market getting belligerent with guests and co-workers alike: yanking a boy off the ride without letting his mother off, pushing another carnival employee who confronted him, and shoving a parent who got in his face before other guests swooped in and jumped him.

When the incident was first reported, the carny's identity was unknown and police had not yet arrested him. But newly released records identify the man as John Howard Hoffman III of Sebring, who was arrested a few days after the incident on April 17 and slapped with a felony charge of child neglect as well as two misdemeanor battery charges related to the carnival brawl.

Cell-phone video of the incident broadcast on Facebook Live begins as Hoffman becomes irate at a woman as she attempts to exit a car after her ride. He then grabs her son, yanks him out of the car, closes the door before the woman, identified in an incident report as Julisa Houston, can get off and restarts the ride. The boy, separated from his mother, attempts to hold onto the car as it begins to move, dragging him until he finally lets go.

Another flea market employee is seen saying something to Hoffman, who charges at his co-worker and shoves him into a fence. (Witnesses say the unidentified employee told Hoffman to "let her off the ride.")

Hoffman again moves the wheel to release the passengers in the next car. After exiting the Ferris wheel with her child, the woman who occupied that car can be seen in the video approaching Hoffman and arguing with him, whereupon he shoves and then hits her.  Several bystanders jump on Hoffman, punching and kicking him as the person shooting the video can be heard chanting, "Beat his ass!"

Amid the melée, the Ferris wheel and its remaining passengers begin to move at a high speed, nearly hitting the crowd that has gathered on the platform.

Police arrived on the scene and dispersed the crowd but did not arrest Hoffman. The following day, officers interviewed witnesses including Houston. By that time, the carnival manager had moved Hoffman to another site to avoid further conflict and police were unable to question him.

An arrest form received by New Times in response to a public-records request indicates that Hoffman turned himself in at the Opa-locka police station on April 21 and was taken to the Turner Guilford Knight Correctional Center. He has pleaded not-guilty to the felony and misdemeanor charges and awaits a plea hearing next month.

Local filmmaker Billy Corben, who shared the video of the altercation on Twitter, where it netted over 200,000 views, tells New Times he requested the incident report on April 19 but did not receive the public records until yesterday, May 27.

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