On Saturday, 17 year old Javon Dawson was shot by Officer Terrence Nemeth of the St. Petersburg, Florida police department. The St. Petersburg Times reports the police side of the story in general terms.
According to the St. Petersburg police, they were called out to the scene on Saturday evening after a party outgrew its venue and spilled into the street, and neighbors complained about the noise. As Officer Nemeth related his account of events, Dawson was in the middle of the street, firing a handgun. Nemeth verbally challenged the teenager and told him to put down the gun. Dawson refused, and pointed his gun at the officer, who then shot Dawson. Dawson ran, but collapsed and died shortly after. Police say they have collected evidence that Dawson had fired a gun that night.
Other witnesses, however, dispute the official police version of the tale. Bay News 9 reports another version of the events:
But witnesses said police had the wrong guy.
Dawson’s friends said they witnessed the situation. They claim police aren’t telling the whole story.
“I saw the police officer shot him right in the back on purpose,” said Deon Hison, a friend of Dawson.
Hison said Dawson didn’t even have a gun.
The Uhuru Movement (associated with the African People’s Socialist Party) staged a protest at the St. Petersburg Police Department, along with members of Dawson’s family. Internal affairs and the state attorney’s office are investigating the matter, as part of standard procedure. If nothing else, they should definitely be able to determine whether Dawson was shot in the back. I wonder if the resolution of this investigation will make the news.
In an interview at the protest, as reported in the “This Just In” weblog post about the protest at tampabay.com, Uhuru Movement founder Omali Yeshiteli said that other teens who tried to help Dawson after he collapsed were pepper-sprayed by police. I’m not sure how much credence to lend to the words of a socialist agitator who claims to have gotten his information from witnesses he refuses to name. On one hand, that sounds pretty damning, if it’s true. On the other, it may lend credence to the idea that police thought Dawson had a gun (whether he did or not).
Police say they recovered a revolver at the scene, presumably the firearm used by Dawson. Please let me know if you find further informative reports about this incident.