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Investigation of high school student's shooting 'thorough,' FDLE says

ST. PETERSBURG — State Attorney Bernie McCabe's investigation of the fatal police shooting of a Gibbs High School student was "complete and thorough" and does not require further action, state law enforcement officials said Monday.

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement's findings came in a seven-page report ordered by Gov. Charlie Crist in response to concerns over the death of Javon Dawson, 17.

McCabe said he wasn't surprised by the conclusions and criticized Crist for ordering the report. "It was inappropriate," McCabe said. "The system is set up so that the prosecutor reviews what police do; it isn't set up the other way."

McCabe said Crist should have asked another state attorney or his general counsel to conduct the review.

McCabe last month concluded an investigation that found Officer Terrence Nemeth justified in shooting Dawson during a chaotic graduation party in June.

Dawson's family had urged Crist to replace McCabe with a special prosecutor because he works closely with St. Petersburg police. Crist ordered the review within hours of receiving McCabe's investigation.

The FDLE reviewed 911 calls, medical reports, witness statements and crime-scene video and photographs to determine whether additional action was needed, according to the report.

"No evidence was obtained to indicate that Officer Nemeth was untruthful in his description of events that led to Javon Dawson's death," the report concludes.

At least 12 police officers and up to 300 party guests were in the area when Dawson was shot, but "of all witnesses interviewed, no other persons besides Officer Nemeth witnessed the shooting of Javon Dawson," the report reads.

FDLE officials declined further comment. "We are letting the report speak for itself," said spokeswoman Kristen Perezluha.

Nemeth told investigators he saw Dawson fire into a crowd and ordered him to drop his gun. Dawson ran away, firing into the crowd again and aiming his weapon at Nemeth twice.

St. Petersburg police Chief Charles "Chuck" Harmon declined to comment. Harmon hopes to complete an internal investigation in 30 days, a spokesman said.

Investigation of high school student's shooting 'thorough,' FDLE says 10/06/08 [Last modified: Wednesday, October 8, 2008 2:56pm]
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