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Officer cleared in fatal shooting returns to street duty

ST. PETERSBURG — Officer Terrence Nemeth, who police say shot and killed a gun-wielding teenager in June, is back on the streets, but no longer patrolling the area where Javon Dawson died.

Why?

"I made that decision because it was in the best interests of Officer Nemeth and the community," said St. Petersburg police Chief Charles "Chuck" Harmon.

Nemeth was helping clear hundreds of teens overflowing from a graduation party the night of June 7 when he saw Dawson firing into a crowd, he said. Then Nemeth said the 17-year-old took aim at him.

That's when the second-year officer shot and killed Dawson on Freemont Terrace S.

Since then Nemeth has been cleared by every official agency that investigated the shooting.

The Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney's Office called it "justifiable homicide." The Florida Department of Law Enforcement agreed. And on Nov. 3, the St. Petersburg Police Department decided Nemeth violated none of its policies in the shooting.

Nemeth, a Northeast High graduate who served in Iraq with the Marines, has been on desk duty since August. Harmon returned Nemeth to road patrol Nov. 4.

But Harmon did not send the officer back to his old patrol area in the southeast corner of the city where Dawson died, and where some activists still bitterly dispute the official version of events.

The department offered no further explanation for the chief's decision.

Jamal Thalji can be reached at thalji@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8472.

Officer cleared in fatal shooting returns to street duty 11/12/08 [Last modified: Monday, November 17, 2008 4:18pm]
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