Thursday, July 03, 2008


The killing of 17-year-old Javon Dawson (pictured here) who was shot in the back at a graduation party was only the latest of police shooting in the St. Petersburg area. Marquell McCullough, 17, was shot 19 times in May 2004 by Pinellas County sheriff’s deputies during an early-morning traffic stop. Jarrell Walker was shot in the back three times in April 2005.

Dawson had no prior arrests and had been promoted to the 11th grade when police say he fired gunshots at a graduation party. Javon’s brother and other witnesses say he had no gun.

Nyabinga Dzinbahwe of the International People's Democratic Uhuru Movement, also known as the Uhurus said witnesses he has spoken with told him 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.”

Javon’s little brother, Keon, explained at a community support meeting with tears in his eyes how the police threatened to kill him if he tried to help Javon as he lie bleeding to death on the ground. “I saw my brother shaking on the ground, and then I tried to run over there. The police was like, ‘get back, or I’ll shoot you too.’”

Ollie Godfrey, Javon’s stepmother, spoke at at he same meeting. She told those in attendance, “This is an injustice in our community because that could have been anybody’s child laying out there that night. They said he was in the hospital. We went to the hospital, and they said that he wasn’t there. We went back out there, and they left him lying out there for four hours like a dog in the streets. We know that the police are going to put it the way they want to to make themselves justified, but it was not justified to shoot somebody in their back. I don’t care what the circumstances were.”

The group Justice for Javon is calling for “reparations” for the victims of police shootings as well as jail for Javon’s shooter, St. Petersburg Officer Terrance Nemeth, and “real economic development” for Black-owned businesses and services.

“We do this because I’m afraid to be the next Javon Dawson or Sean Bell,” Olugbala told the Florida Courier. “This is not an isolated incident involving a rogue cop. It is an example of the brutal relationship between the police and African people.

“The police are used to protect the system of oppression of African people. The government uses terror like what Javon experienced to keep us from getting organized. Violence serves as a deterrent to stop us.”

The cops and the prosecutors kept saying they were having a hard time finding any wintesses. So last week family members put the State Attorney's Office in touch with at least seven witnesses, including Javon's 14-year-old brother, Keon, who was with Javon the night he died.

"In a nutshell, they said they did not see a gun," Bruce Bartlett, chief assistant to Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney Bernie McCabe told the Tampa Times.

The State's Attorney though remains skeptical.

And Javon's family remains sceptical of the State Attorney's office.

Maura Kiefer, a St. Petersburg lawyer representing the International People's Democratic Uhuru Movement, appeared in a Clearwater courtroom Tuesday to request that McCabe be removed from the case because his office is biased, court officials said.

"The motion is not a reflection of the credibility or qualification or integrity of Mr. McCabe's office at all," Kiefer said after the hearing, which was moved to July 10 because of a scheduling conflict.

Rather, the family is concerned because the 24-year-old officer who shot Javon, Terrence Nemeth, also has been a state witness on numerous occasions.

"Officer Nemeth is quite frankly a potential criminal suspect," Kiefer said. "There is clearly a conflict of interest."


The following is from WMNF Community Radio in Tampa, Florida.

Javon Dawson family’s lawyer says State Attorney should recuse himself
The lawyer for the family of a teen shot and killed by St. Petersburg Police says that all of the witnesses she has spoken to say the teen was unarmed and is asking that the State Attorney investigating the shooting be disqualified.

Attorney Maura Kiefer said she has presented five or six witnesses who say that 17 year old Javon Dawson was unarmed before and while he was shot twice in the back by Officer Terrence Nemeth on June 7th. In a motion filed Tuesday morning with the Pinellas County Court, Kiefer said Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney Bernie McCabe has a conflict of interest.

Diop Olugbala is the political action coordinator for the Justice for Javon Dawson committee and said that Kiefer is asking that an independent investigator be assigned to the case.

“The state’s attorney has been using and will most likely continue to use witness testimonials from police officers from the St. Petersburg Police Department, many of whom he is currently working with around 100 other cases in process right now, in trial right now. This represents a conflict of interest, and really you know reveals an incestuous relationship that exists between the state’s attorney and the police department that has no place in the process for justice.”

Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney Bernie McCabe told WMNF that he would not recuse himself and did not consider it a conflict of interest.

“That’s ludicrous. I’ve been doing this for a long time. I’ve investigated a lot of police officer-involved situations. … There’s no case in controversy currently. I don’t know who has standing to … I certainly don’t think this lawyer has standing to try to disqualify my office and I’m certainly not going to do it voluntarily.”

Because the investigation is ongoing, McCabe would not discuss what the witnesses told his investigators. The June shooting occurred during a nighttime graduation party where police were called for noise complaints after 200 youth spilled out of a Masonic lodge and into the street. There were some reports of shots being fired into the air. St. Petersburg Police maintain that Dawson was turned sideways, pointing a gun at Officer Nemeth, when the officer shot him in the back of the shoulder. Dawson continued to turn and flee, according to that account, when Nemeth shot him a second time in the lower back. Dawson collapsed and died in a nearby yard. Police say a .38-caliber Smith & Wesson revolver with three spent rounds was found near his body. But Diop Olugbala said that witnesses contest that account.

“I’ve myself have heard many accounts of what happened that night on June 7th. And I’ve even watched TV interviews on Channel 9 and other major TV networks where people came before the cameras saying that Javon had no gun. … Everybody knows that he didn’t have a gun. And from what I understand, there’s been various witnesses who have come forward to the state’s attorneys, through Maura Kiefer’s efforts, that have said the same thing.”

Attorney Maura Kiefer represented the witnesses as they were interviewed by investigators.

There will be a hearing on Keifer’s motion next Thursday morning. Keifer told WMNF that if her request is denied, she will ask the Governor to issue an executive order to assign a different state attorney to the investigation.

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