Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Leaders urge patience with police shooting investigation

Javon Dawson, 17, was shot and killed by a St. Petersburg police officer on June 7.

Javon Dawson, 17, was shot and killed by a St. Petersburg police officer on June 7.

Several Pinellas County elected officials on Monday urged the community to let the investigation of the police shooting of a St. Petersburg teenager run its course and not resort to violence.

Titled "An Open Letter to Our Community," the statement was spearheaded by Pinellas County Commissioner Ken Welch, who said it was "something that's been on my mind for quite a long time."

Besides Welch, the letter was signed by St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Baker, state Rep. Darryl Rouson, City Council Chairman Jamie Bennett and City Council members Wengay Newton and Karl Nurse.

The statement criticized "recent comments alluding to 'uprising' or violence" that might happen when Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney Bernie McCabe completes his investigation of the June 7 death of 17-year-old Javon Dawson.

"In some parts of the community, there are some frustrations about the investigative process," Welch said.

He said he was reacting to recent statements by a spokesman for the International People's Democratic Uhuru Movement, which has criticized police and prosecutors and asserted that Dawson's death was tied to efforts to "turn St. Petersburg into an enclave for wealthy white people." The group said it does not encourage violence.

Welch said he drafted the statement late last week and circulated it among other elected officials.

It was Baker's first public statement on the Dawson case. "People need to wait for the facts to come in and for the investigation," he said.

Newton said he signed the letter partly out of frustration with the Uhurus for protesting Dawson's death while remaining quiet about black-on-black crime.

There were 26 murders in St. Petersburg in 2007, many of them black-on-black crimes.

"It's like those don't matter," Newton said. "This particular one with Dawson is still open, and we're asking people to remain calm."

Last week, Uhuru members protested outside the Pinellas criminal courthouse where they shouted: "Two shots to the back because he was black" and "Bernie McCabe, you can't hide. We charge you with homicide."

Welch said he heard an Uhuru leader on WWBA-AM 1040 last week referring to the 1996 riots as a possible outcome if McCabe clears police Officer Terrence Nemeth.

"Any escalation of violence, or even the threat of such, would be a self-defeating setback to the economic development, education and job opportunities that so many have worked to bring to our economically disadvantaged neighborhoods," the letter states.

But Diop Olugbala, a recent guest on Next! with Dro Silva on WWBA, said his comments were not meant to incite violence.

"History is the best teacher," Olugbala, the group's international organizer, said Monday. "All I said is, if they want to know what the outcome would be, they should look at the situation that was created under the TyRon Lewis case."

Officer Nemeth said he shot Dawson to death after the teen pointed a gun at him as he fled a raucous graduation party June 7.

In 1996, TyRon Lewis was fatally shot by a police officer, touching off three nights of riots. More riots followed after the officer who shot Lewis was cleared.

The Uhurus say McCabe has a conflict of interest in the Dawson case because Nemeth has testified in state trials before. McCabe denies he has a conflict.

McCabe said his investigation is nearing the end but would not give a time frame.

He also said he was unaware of the open letter before it was released. "It's unfortunate that circumstances have developed that would cause them to feel the need do that," McCabe said.

What the letter said

Here is the complete text of "Open Letter to Our Community":

In the weeks following the tragic death of Javon Dawson, our community has struggled to come to terms with the death of yet another young person in our community. Some have voiced frustration with the investigative process, others have rightly pointed to the fact that guns and gun-related violence have become a far too routine occurrence in some of our neighborhoods. To end this spiral of violence, crime and death, we will all have to intensify our efforts to create more educational and economic opportunities, to build a stronger sense of personal responsibility and mutual respect for our neighbors, and to counter the pervasive gun culture which glamorizes guns, especially among our youth.

Many members of our community have long worked towards these goals, but much work remains. The task before us must be approached as a community — parents, youth, government, schools, community organizations and neighborhoods. There is no one entity that can single-handedly solve this problem.

As your elected officials, we urge the community to allow the investigation process of the State Attorney to be completed. Those who have information regarding the Javon Dawson case should come forward and speak the truth. The rule of law must be respected, and recent comments alluding to "uprising" or violence are irresponsible. Many have worked to improve our neighborhoods, and bring public and private investment to our community, specifically in the Midtown area. Any escalation of violence, or even the threat of such, would be a self-defeating setback to the economic development, education and job opportunities that so many have worked to bring to our economically disadvantaged neighborhoods. We urge those who truly care about our community to continue your positive work to provide opportunities and hope for a brighter future. We stand with you.

Leaders urge patience with police shooting investigation 08/11/08 [Last modified: Friday, August 15, 2008 1:48pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Florida woman weighing 325 pounds charged with killing girl by sitting on her


    PENSACOLA — A 325-pound (150-kilogram) Florida woman is charged with killing her 9-year-old cousin by sitting on the child as punishment.

    This Oct. 14, 2017 photo made available by the Escambia County Sheriff's Office, Fla., shows Veronica Green Posey under arrest. Posey is charged with killing her 9-year-old cousin by sitting on the child as punishment. Posey, who weighs 325 pounds, first punished the girl with a ruler and metal pipe before sitting on her for at least 10 minutes. [Escambia County Sheriff's Office via AP]
  2. Girl, 8, got on 'tippy toes' to peer over cruise ship railing, then fell to her death


    MIAMI — A family cruise to paradise turned into a nightmare on Saturday, when an 8-year-old tumbled over the inner railings of a ship and fell to her death.

    Friends and family mourn Zion Smith, the 8-year-old girl who fell to her death aboard a Carnival cruise in Miami this weekend. [Image from Facebook]
  3. Bucs Cannon Fodder podcast: Looking back at what went wrong


    In his latest Cannon Fodder podcast, Greg Auman says Monday brought good news relating to Jameis Winston's shoulder injury.

    A frustrated Mike Evans sits on the bench during the second half of the Bucs' loss to the Cardinals Sunday in Arizona. [LOREN ELLIOTT   |   Times]
  4. Syrian commander says Raqqa has been captured from militants


    BEIRUT — U.S.-backed Syrian forces liberated the city of Raqqa on Tuesday from Islamic State militants, a senior commander said, in a major defeat for the collapsing extremist group that had proclaimed it to be the capital of its "caliphate."

    This frame grab from video released Sunday, Oct. 15, 2017 and provided by Furat FM, a Syrian Kurdish activist-run media group, shows Syrian Islamic State group fighters who surrendered entering a base of the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), in Raqqa, Syria. A spokesman for the SDF in Syria says it will be in control of the northern city of Raqqa "within a few days" after attacking the last pocket held by the Islamic State group. SDF fighters launched an operation to retake the last IS-held pocket of Raqqa after some 275 militants and their family members surrendered. [Furat FM via AP]
  5. Drug czar nominee Marino withdraws name amid report he weakened DEA


    WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump said Tuesday that his nominee to be the nation's drug czar is withdrawing from consideration for the job.

    U.S. Rep. Tom Marino, R-Pa., left, sponsored the law that weakened the DEA's enforcement abilities. Seen with Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., in 2015, Marino is nominated to be the nation's drug czar. [Andrew Harrer | Bloomberg]