Timing of letter a coincidence?
County Commissioner Ken Welch rallied five other local elected officials to release a letter urging the community to let the Javon Dawson investigation run its course and not resort to violence Monday morning.
Barely 24 hours later, Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney Bernie McCabe released a report clearing Officer Terrence Nemeth in using deadly force against Dawson.
"I just felt compelled to write the letter at that time," Welch said. "I thought we can't just be silent until the state attorney makes a decision."
Welch said he originally wanted to release the letter Friday, but St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Baker, who also signed the letter, was away on vacation. Welch, who was living in St. Petersburg when riots broke out after the 1996 police fatal shooting of TyRon Lewis, said he wanted to urge people not to repeat the past.
"My gut was that a grand jury was going to be seated," Welch added.
McCabe said he knew nothing about the letter before it was released around 11 a.m. Monday.
Democratic State Rep. Darryl Rouson, City Council members Wengay Newton and Karl Nurse and Council Chairman Jamie Bennett also signed the letter.
Rouson and Nurse confirmed that they didn't know McCabe was about to release the findings of his investigation. But Nurse added that he also wasn't surprised that the report was released Tuesday.
"We knew the investigation was coming to an end," he said.
-- Cristina Silva, Times Staff Writer
[Welch photo: Jim Damaske, Times files]