Uhurus urge independent review of Dawson shooting

08/15/08 Arielle Stevenson
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Today, the International People’s Democratic Uhuru Movement held a press conference in St. Petersburg, three days after State Attorney Bernie McCabe’s report on the shooting of Javon Dawson was released.

The report cleared Officer Terence Nemeth of any wrongdoing the in death of Javon Dawson. Since the report on the incident was released, Gov. Charlie Crist has called for a review of McCabe’s report after members of the group Justice for Javon Dawson marched in Tallahassee and got 1,700 signatures demanding something be done.

Nyabinga Dzimbahwe, news director for the Uhuru movement, says Crist’s announcement indicates a lack of confidence in Bernie McCabe.

The controversial shooting occurred after police received a call that a graduation party had gotten out of hand. According to McCabe’s report, it was while the crowd was dispersing that a fight broke out and shots were fired. The report says Nemeth saw Dawson with a firearm and ordered him to drop the weapon. Dawson reportedly then fired two shots as he began to run from the crowd and Nemeth returned fire, shooting Dawson twice in the back, killing him.

The report says Dawson was in possession of a .38 special five-shot revolver that was recovered from a nearby driveway and that the weapon had three spent castings. DNA testing from the weapon, according to the report, was consistent with that of Javon Dawson. However several witnesses have testified under oath that Dawson was unarmed and many in the community agree.

Dzimbahwe says this is another instance of abuse of the African-American community of St. Petersburg by mcCabe.The eight-page report states gun powder was also found in the pockets of Dawson’s shorts. However the report also says that no gun powder residue was collected from Dawson’s body after the shooting. The report says it is not St. Pete Police protocol to do so when the subject is also a gunshot victim but that the protocol is consistent with Florida Department of Law Enforcement criteria.

When Chief of Police Charles Harmon learned of the protocol and the officer’s failure to collect samples, it was too late to collect any residue as the autopsy procedure would have removed it. The report says Officer Nemeth’s actions were lawful and concluded that it was justifiable homicide.

Kobyana Bantu Shango an organizer for the Uhurus and the group justice for Javon Dawson, says McCabe’s decision would not have been acceptable in other communities. Conflicting testimonies from witnesses have caused controversy in deciphering whether Dawson had a firearm.

Today Dzimbahwe told WMNF that there are witnesses who will testify that Dawson was unarmed. Penny Hess, a member of the Uhuru movement and chair of the African People Solidarity committee, a group of white people that are working together with the Uhuru’s to fight racism, says the report makes it clear that Dawson was murdered.

The group Justice for Javon Dawson recently hired a lawyer to help fight the verdict. WMNF attempted to contact Maura Kiefer, attorney for the group, but was unable to reach her before airtime. When WMNF contacted the State Attorney’s office to acquire a copy of the report, WMNF was told to fill out a request for public records form. However a link to the document can viewed at wmnf.org/news.

State Attorney Report on Javon Dawson

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