LARGO — A local activist group staged a protest outside the Pinellas criminal courthouse Thursday to call on State Attorney Bernie McCabe to step aside from the investigation of a black teen shot to death by police.
Members of the International People's Democratic Uhuru Movement shouted: "Two shots to the back because he was black" and "Bernie McCabe, you can't hide. We charge you with homicide."
McCabe's office is investigating the June 7 death of 17-year-old Javon Dawson, whom a St. Petersburg police officer shot outside a graduation party. Police say Dawson was firing a gun and pointed a gun at Officer Terrence Nemeth as he ran away.
Dawson was shot in the shoulder and the back. His family says he did not have a gun when he was shot.
A St. Petersburg lawyer representing the family has asked Gov. Charlie Crist to appoint a special prosecutor, but the governor hasn't made a move.
McCabe said there would have to be a conflict of interest for him to be removed and he doesn't see one.
Uhuru members said there is a conflict because Nemeth has testified in prosecutions before. But virtually every police officer involved in a shooting has testified in court.
That does not create a conflict of interest, McCabe said.
McCabe said earlier this week that he might take the Dawson case to a grand jury — something he has done with a police shooting only once before in his 16 years as state attorney.
McCabe said he takes cases to grand juries only if there is a dispute about what happened that could affect the outcome. In this case, more than 30 witnesses have been interviewed, making a factual dispute possible
The last police shooting McCabe took to a grand jury involved the 1996 death of TyRon Lewis, a case that set off riots. A grand jury cleared the officer who shot Lewis.
Lewis' sister, DeAnne, attended the Thursday's demonstration, which included people holding signs and a banner with pictures of Dawson.
"We don't want Bernie McCabe or his jury," Lewis said.