Teen shot, killed by St. Pete Police

06/09/08 Seán Kinane
WMNF Drive-Time News Monday | Listen to this entire show:

On Saturday night in St. Petersburg, a teenage boy was shot and killed by a St. Petersburg Police officer during a high school graduation celebration. The police say 17-year old Javon Dawson fired a gun outside the Shining Light Masonic Lodge where several hundred teenagers had gathered, but there are others who say the police murdered an unarmed teen.

Nyabinga Dzinbahwe is a member of the International People's Democratic Uhuru Movement, also known as the Uhurus. Dzinbahwe said witnesses he has spoken with say that Dawson did not have a gun, contrary to the story put forward by the police.

“He was there with his hands raised when the police shot him. And that after they shot him in the back then when all those people attempted to help him, to stop the bleeding, the police maced other folk who where there, particularly, I believe his cousin. Then as his younger brother attempted to help him, the police told him that they would shoot him if he didn’t stop, if he didn’t get away from him.”

According to the St. Petersburg Police, Officer Terrance Nemeth saw Dawson fire the gun and then point the gun at him. Nemeth then shot Dawson twice. Dawson, who had just finished his sophomore year at Gibbs High School, fled before collapsing in the yard of a nearby home, where he died.

Dzinbahwe told WMNF that the witnesses who were at the scene are not talking to the media yet for legal reasons. They say that were shots fired in the air, but Dawson did not have a gun until police planted it on the scene.

“According to the numerous witnesses that we’ve talked to, he had no gun. So, if there was a gun found, the police put it there,” Dzinbahwe said.

Bill Proffitt, a spokesperson for the St. Petersburg Police Department, said Officer Nemeth is on paid leave while three different investigations are ongoing, so not all the facts are clear. Two of the investigations are being done by the St. Pete Police, one by its Criminal Investigations unit and the other by Internal Affairs.

One of the shots that Officer Nemeth fired hit Dawson in the right shoulder and the other hit him in the back, Proffitt said.

Profitt told WMNF that he has heard that Dawson’s family has not been able to view or take possession of his body, and that the police are trying to resolve that issue between the family and the Medical Examiner’s Office. Proffitt said a gun was recovered near Dawson’s body. It was a Smith & Wesson 38-caliber revolver but the police do not know yet who it is registered to. The police did not use mace or pepper spray, Proffitt said.

The case is also under routine investigation by the Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney’s office. They declined to be interviewed while the investigation is ongoing but will issue a letter of their findings to the St. Petersburg Chief of Police.

On Monday morning, about 30 people marched and held signs with photos of Dawson outside the St. Petersburg Police Department.

WMNF asked Dzinbahwe what the Uhurus are calling for.

“We say jail the killer cops. This was an unjust killing and the policeman who killed this young man should be locked up like anybody else would be locked up for killing somebody. We also call for reparations to be paid to his family.”

Dzinbahwe said that police violence is an overall campaign to make St. Petersburg more appealing for wealthy white people by getting rid of the existing communities of color.

“The murder of Javon Dawson is the result of a public policy of police containment. A policy by the city to contain the African community with police instead of creating economic development for the African community. … What happens with this policy of police containment is you see African people brutalized in the street, you see African people murdered. And that’s our understanding and we call for an end to the policy of police containment and we demand a real economic development. We demand a situation where there is an infusion of money into the African community to develop commerce and businesses that can be owned and controlled by African people.”

Dzinbahwe called the killing of Javon Dawson a terrible situation.

“You have the life taken from this young African who was at a graduation party. Seventeen years old at a graduation party. And this is somebody who had no previous relationship with the police, no previous history of having any type of contact with the police, and you have now, with the result of them having murdered him, a campaign of slander going on.”

On Wednesday at 6 p.m., supporters will meet at the Uhuru House at 1245 18th Ave. S. in St. Petersburg.

InPDUM - International People's Democratic Uhuru Movement

Uhuru News

St. Petersburg Police

Office of the State Attorney for Pinellas-Pasco

comments powered by Disqus


the eventuality of truth

When they find his fingerprints and DNA on the gun, will they then claim that those were planted? The tragedy is this ridiculous group is anti-police instead of going into these low-income neighborhoods and preaching peace and education.

Javon Dawson

I've read the stories and will not pass judgement until the final report comes out. One thing that scares me is Javon Dawson's MY SPACE personal page that seems to show him taunting anyone to come get some, then weilding a gun. You be the judge if you like, otherwise, wait for the facts.

Playing with Fire

The developing story on this case clearly indicates that Javon Dawson was one of several gangsta wanna a be's who were firing guns in the air at the party that night. He was playing with fire and got burned. The Uhuru should be focusing on getting guns out of these kids hands and offering them better role models than the rap/thug/gangsta models that they romatically worship. Accountability is a two way thing and our black community needs to step up show that we are not complainers and blamers, but rather problem solvers and leaders of our own people. Until we do this sadness will continue to flourish like a virus.

Javon's murder is part of Baker Plan

On Sunday afternoon I attended a community meeting at the Uhuru House about the police shooting of Javon. Over 100 people were there, 2/3 were between 10 - 18 years old and everyone was overwhelmed with sadness and anger. Javon was clearly loved by many people in his community. First the police said he was shooting in the air and didn't respond to demands to put the gun down. Then they said he was twisting and pointing the gun at police as he ran away (to explain the fact that he was killed by 2 shots in the back). His friends and family all say he didn't have a gun. The police don't have any criminal record to slander him with, but I'm sure they'll come up with something to criminalize Javon to make it ok to have killed him. The cop who shot Javon was a former Marine and part of "Operation Safe Summer", a heavy-handed "anti-crime" initiative targeting youth. The City of St. Pete has cut out the summer jobs program, but always has money to beef up police on the south side. That's because Mayor Baker and the economic interests he represents have a plan to turn St. Petersburg into another Palm Beach - a wealthy white leisure town - and are working push out the African community and anyone else who doesn't fit the bill. If you're interested in learning more, and in supporting positive and sustainable economic development for the African community, come to a conference on June 22, 2pm at the Uhuru House, 1245 18th Avenue South, which will address the City's new waterfront stadium proposal. Reps from the City will be there to answer concerns about the City's development plan. Community members will testify about the impact of past/current/future "development" projects on the lives of longtime residents and small businesses. For more info, contact the Uhuru House at 727-821-6620.


Sandy, please EXPLAIN the myspace page where young "innocent" javon is seen with a GUN!!!!! How can the same people say he didn't have a gun, NOT SEE any policeman plant the gun? One or the other....this is you and the black community NOT wanting to take accountability for its own malfeasance. Its always someone else's fault. Instead of preaching hate mongering and the "oh we are victims", maybe you should actually do some good. Clean up the streets. Bring good morals and educational foundations to the home. THAT will bring about change, not what you are doing.


These Uhurus sound just like any other poverty pimping orginazation.These Activists exist to extort money from taxpayers and private sector business.

to T

it was a paint ball gun on his myspace genius not a real gun


Perhaps the black community is so comfortable with people around them having/using guns that they do not see it as a viable reason for a cop to shoot someone. It is terribly sad that Javon was killed. But was the cop justified? Definitely. All of this out rage is just going to make cops so much more hesitant to shoot a perpetrator, and the community will be the victims. This was a party full of high school aged kids, why was there a gun found there anyway? Why do highschool age kids have assess/ possession of firearms. How about instead of blaming the police, and fabricating these ideas that there is a big conspiracy to drive black people out of St. Petersburg, you do your part in keeping firearms of the streets and out of the hands of children. Omali Yeshitela is an anarchist and this is who you leader is? He is not about uniting the community, he is creating more and more segregation.


It's sad and unfortunate that a youth was killed. His family says he didn't have a gun but why was he running from the police. If there was a you tube video or some other form of definitive evidence that showed this young man was definitely threatening a cop with a gun do you think this community would be singing a different tune? In my opinion they would just come up with another excuse how it's not his fault and he was a good kid. Good kids don't run from the cops and go to wild ridiculous parties where it's okay to make as much noise as you want and force nieghbors to call the cops. I think the circumstances of this situation definitely show that the cops version of events is more believeable than a bunch of this young kids friends who probabaly don't know right from wrong themselves. The African community in St.Petersburg needs to wake up and smell the coffee. While all races are more than capable of criminal activity, where are the highest crime rates in St.Petersburg?.....If your thinking in the African community south of central your correct. Your community can continue to try to place blame on others but the bottom line is not all but most African's in St.Pete are out of control. They do whatever they want: steal,murder,harass,and have no regard for anybody but themselves. It's time for the African community of St.Pete to step up and take responsibility or get out and stop putting the good people of St. Pete in danger.