TAMPA — Police released a photo Friday they say shows 16-year-old Javon Neal climbing a flight of stairs Sunday evening, seconds before he pulled a gun on police and officers fatally shot him.
Though the image is blurry, taken from a surveillance video at the Central Court Apartments, a pointed object appears to protrude from the bottom of the person's shorts.
Police say it's the barrel of a loaded shotgun.
The photo's release comes five days after the shooting, which has drawn criticism from some, including the New Black Panther Party and Occupy Tampa. A protest of the shooting is planned for today in front of Tampa police headquarters.
Kethessa Fordoms, Neal's mother, declined to comment on the photo Friday.
Police say that at about 7:30 p.m. Sunday, two police officers arrived at the apartment complex in response to a 911 call about shots fired. They approached Neal, who matched the description given, but he ran up three flights of stairs and, they say, pointed the shotgun at them. The officers fired.
The shooting is under investigation, but police have said from the beginning that the two officers feared for their lives.
A second photo released Friday shows the gun opened at the scene.
The police department also released a letter, which Police Chief Jane Castor originally addressed to the editor of the Florida Sentinel Bulletin, a twice-weekly newspaper.
In it, she says that deadly force is a last resort and taking someone's life is devastating to an officer.
"It is a tragedy that Javon Neal, a 16-year-old, would be armed with such a dangerous weapon as an assault-style shotgun," she wrote. "A life was lost and many more negatively affected."
She said the officers were "deeply impacted" by what happened Sunday evening, and Castor wrote that she was sorry for Neal's death. But she added:
"I do not, and will not, apologize for the actions of my officers. In fact I stand firmly in support, knowing that if not for their quick reaction to this dangerous threat, they may not have gone home to their families.
"I can ask my officers to lay down their lives for the good in our community; I cannot and will not do so for those who are breaking the law."
Jessica Vander Velde can be reached at email@example.com. or (813) 226-3433.