ST. PETERSBURG — The leaders of the local Uhuru Movement issued a surprising response Wednesday to St. Petersburg's $1,500 reward for information leading to the arrest of those who illegally possess guns.
The group is offering $1,500 to any police officer who provides testimony leading to the conviction of another law enforcement officer in the shooting deaths of four young black men.
"We look forward to finally seeing justice replace the thin blue line of silence in the Police Department," said Kobina Bantushango, the group's St. Petersburg president.
Bantushango, international Uhuru president Chimurenga Waller and other Uhuru representatives stood before police headquarters on First Avenue N with a banner bearing images of the four men, shot by law enforcement during separate St. Petersburg incidents.
Prosecutors found law enforcement officers justified in the shootings.
Bantushango said the Uhurus are not criticizing the city's new program regarding gun crimes, which was made in response to the shooting death of 8-year-old Paris Whitehead-Hamilton.
But, he said, they are "baffled by the fact that the police can find $1,500 to offer for bounties at the same time that 71 percent of the so-called Midtown area lives at or below the poverty line and services are being cut."
Money for the city gun program will come from a police forfeiture fund and private donations.
Waller said the reward money for an officer who snitches will come out of the Uhurus' pockets.
A police spokesman said he was not aware of anyone questioning the police shootings.
The death of 18-year-old Tyron Lewis led to two days of disturbances in 1996. An officer fired at Lewis after his car lurched while he was pulled over for speeding.
Marquell McCullough, 17, was shot 15 times by two Pinellas sheriff's deputies in May 2004 after he steered his pickup at deputies.
Jarrell S. Walker, 19, was killed by a sheriff's deputy during a 2005 drug raid.
Javon Dawson, 17, was shot last year when police said Dawson fired into a crowd after a graduation party.
Emily Nipps can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 893-8452.