Teen shot, killed by St. Pete Police listen06/09/08 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.