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Police quietly seek out clues in May homicide

LARGO — Early the morning of May 15, a 28-year-old St. Petersburg man was shot and killed in the parking lot at Oak Ridge apartment complex on Ridge Road. Clifton Lamar Davis died from a gunshot wound to the chest.

Largo police did not arrest anyone in the killing. Nor did they notify the media or the public about the death and subsequent murder investigation.

"We send out media alerts when we're concerned about the safety of the general public," said Largo police Lt. Michael Loux. "In this case, we didn't have a concern for the safety of the general public."

Police departments in Pinellas, Hillsborough, Pasco and Hernando counties routinely send out alerts to media outlets in Tampa Bay regarding crimes.

So, the killing went unreported. The St. Petersburg Times found no record of any news agency reporting Davis' death.

On Friday, the Times came across a copy of a search warrant related to the death.

According to the affidavit for the search warrant, which was filed July 13, Largo police dispatchers received a 911 call at about 6:59 a.m. May 15 reporting that a man had been shot at the apartment complex.

When Officer Amanda Misner arrived, she found Davis lying in the parking lot. He had a bullet wound to his chest and was bleeding heavily. Davis was taken to Largo Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead at 7:37 a.m.

When asked about Davis' slaying, Largo police say they believe that it was not necessary or prudent to inform the public that a man was killed in broad daylight.

"We're not obligated to report anything to the media," said Largo police Capt. Brian Browne, returning a call on behalf of Chief John Carroll. "The media never inquired about it."

Loux provided another reason why no news about the killing was released: He did not want to jeopardize the investigation.

"It can be counterproductive for us to release details that might scare away a suspect," he said.

Largo police still haven't made any arrests in the case, but they might be getting close.

According to the affidavit for the search warrant:

• Davis was found outside an apartment occupied by Faye E. Simmons, 17, and her mother, Prestina Daniels, 31. Over the course of the next month, police conducted several interviews with Simmons and Daniels. They also searched the apartment and found a .25-caliber pistol. The firearm matched the bullet retrieved from Davis' body.

• On June 7, Simmons admitted that Davis had been shot in the apartment, but she said she did not see it happen and did not know who was responsible.

On July 13, a judge signed the search warrant to obtain a DNA sample from Simmons to compare it with DNA recovered from the .25-caliber pistol. The warrant was served July 14.

Davis had an extensive criminal history, according to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. In 2001, he was sentenced to two years in prison for grand theft auto and eluding a police officer. In 2006, he was sentenced to 15 months in prison for drug possession and driving with a suspended license.

Times researchers Caryn Baird and Natalie Watson contributed to this report. Martine Powers can be reached at (727) 445-4224 or mpowers@sptimes.com.

Police quietly seek out clues in May homicide 07/19/10 [Last modified: Monday, July 19, 2010 10:31pm]
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