Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Last Night in St. Petersburg | Youth forum on violence

Javon Dawson's peers try to make sense of shooting

ST. PETERSBURG — In the two weeks since a police officer shot and killed Javon Dawson outside a rowdy graduation party, there have been headlines, protest speeches and police reports.

But Pastor Louis Murphy wanted to hear from a segment of the community that has remained behind the scenes — Javon's peers.

Murphy, pastor of Mount Zion Progressive Missionary Baptist Church, held a forum where young people could voice their concerns about everything from safety to their relationship with the police.

The discussion, held in a separate room from their parents, wasn't angry. It was more like a talk among friends that ventured from maintaining reputations to avoiding fights.

Opinions on Dawson's shooting ran the gamut.

On June 7, Officer Terrence Nemeth shot Dawson after the teen pointed a gun at him outside a party, according to authorities. Dawson's family and community members have refuted the Police Department's claims.

"I see little young, 5 or 6 year olds, coming around with BB guns and you look at these young kids like, 'They fittin' to end up being like their older brother or daddy,' " said Roman Elkahly, a 17-year-old Gibbs High School student who is enrolled in Gulfport's junior police academy program.

But Chiriga Murphy, 24, a forum moderator, asked whether police could have done something other than shoot Dawson.

"Point blank, when a gun is pointed at you, even if you are not a police officer, you going to be scared," Elkahly said. "You going to think someone is going to shoot you."

But suppose he didn't have a gun, countered 17-year-old Andrew Boose, who said he was a friend of Dawson's and attended the party that night.

"I feel like he ain't that kind of person, he just messed around with the wrong kind of people," said Boose, who attended Life Skills Center of Pinellas. "I don't think he would pull a gun and do nothing like that."

So why not speak up, asked Marion Harrington, another moderator.

"That's my homeboy," Boose said. "But other people who know Javon are scared to speak up with what they know."

So, Murphy asked the crowd of about 70 young people, would speaking up be considered snitching?

"No," said Tyler Birdie Martin, 19, a Boca Ciega graduate.

"Snitching is telling on your homeboy to get out of something that you did," said Martin, who is studying to become a medical assistant at Everest University. "But if you telling on someone that you know is wrong, that's just 'looking out.' "

Javon Dawson's peers try to make sense of shooting 06/18/08 [Last modified: Tuesday, June 24, 2008 10:59am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Study: Tampa Bay a top market for homebuyers on the move

    Real Estate

    The Tampa Bay area is among the top markets for homebuyers who are likely to move in the next few months, ATTOM Data Solutions says.

    The Tampa Bay area is among the top markets for homebuyers who are likely to move in the next few months, a survey found.
[Associated Press file photo]
  2. Tampa lawyer Fred Ridley to be new chairman of Augusta National, Masters' home


    AUGUSTA, Ga. — Fred Ridley first came to Augusta National to compete in the 1976 Masters as the U.S. Amateur champion, and he played the opening round in the traditional pairing with the defending champion, Jack Nicklaus.

  3. Rays send down Chase Whitley, Andrew Kittredge; add Chih-Wei Hu, acitvate Alex Cobb


    After having to cover more than five innings following a short start by Austin Pruitt, the Rays shuffled their bullpen following Wednesday's game, sending down RHPs Chase Whitley and Andrew Kittredge,

    The Kittredge move was expected, as he was summoned to add depth to the pen Wednesday in advance of RHP Alex …

  4. MLB commissioner Rob Manfred moves closer to wanting a decision on Rays stadium

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred called Wednesday for urgency from Tampa Bay area government leaders to prioritize and move quicker on plans for a new Rays stadium.

    MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred talks with reporters at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Wednesday, Aug. 23, 2017.
  5. Six home runs doom Rays in loss to Blue Jays (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — A curve that didn't bounce was the difference Wednesday as the Rays lost 7-6 to the Blue Jays in front of 8,264, the smallest Tropicana field crowd since Sept. 5, 2006.

    Tampa Bay Rays shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria (11) greets center fielder Kevin Kiermaier (39) at the plate after his two run home run in the third inning of the game between the Toronto Blue Jays and the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Wednesday, Aug. 23, 2017.