NewsPinellas County

Actions

St. Pete community calls for end to violence following string of shootings

Posted at 11:22 PM, Dec 04, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-04 23:22:25-05

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Community leaders are calling for an end to violence after a string of shootings occur in the St. Pete area.

On Wednesday, a 20-year-old man was killed during an officer-involved shooting. The man, Dominque Harris, was killed by police officers.

RELATED: Suspect dead after officer-involved shooting in St. Petersburg

“My heart is heavy my world has been shattered during this time I’m asking for privacy for myself, for my children and for the rest of our family as we cope with this unimaginable loss,” said Corey Givens Jr., while reading a statement he said was on behalf of Harris’ mother Thursday.

“I do not want sympathy from anyone but what I want is the truth. I think my son and I deserve that at the very least. I am outraged at everything I have learned about that happened yesterday resulted in my son’s untimely death. I have had to find out while watching the news. No one ever called me until after the fact. There are no words or actions that can heal a parent after the loss of a child. I do not wish to hurt anyone but I am demanding the truth and transparency from everyone involved. I want answers as to why my son is no longer alive. The apparent warrant that was issued as a result of him defending his younger brother was never brought up. Regardless it does not constitute the actions that took place on yesterday.”

The shooting comes after renewed calls to stop violence in St. Petersburg. Just last weekend, community members and leaders gathered and marched in the area following a string of shootings.

Their campaign shared the message, 'enough is enough,' while focusing on root causes of crime, recruiting community members and supporting businesses along the 16th St. south corridor.

"We live here, we have to want better for where we lay our head, we need to want better for where our children are growing up," said City Council member Deborah Figgs-Sanders.

"It's heartbreaking and it's very disheartening to have any type of gun violence and as you know the last several weeks have been protesting gun violence that has been happening in this area. So to have gun violence of this magnitude occur tonight, it's heartbreaking and very, very disheartening," said State. Rep. Michele Rayner.

Thursday night, community members gathered for prayer and conversation at the Food Max parking lot to remember what happened and call for an end to gun violence.

“We want to make sure that investigation is autonomous and thorough. What we saw on video doesn’t necessarily add up to what the police officers spoke about yesterday in their press conference. So there’s a lot of questions and a lot of vagueness and we want to make sure that that’s cleared up,” Givens, the president of the Poor People's Campaign St. Petersburg, said.

Givens said they also are calling for a transparent and independent investigation.

“I know there’s an investigation that has to take place, but there is a mom who’s hurting, there’s an officer who’s trying to heal, and we need to make sure as a community we rally together to say enough is enough. There’s been too much gun violence in this community and it ends today,” Givens said.

There have been three homicides in the area of the parking lot since September.

“From this point forward we need to do a better job of getting back to that village mentality because it does take a village to raise a child and I think if we all did a better job of looking after each other, if we see something wrong whether it’s drug dealing going on in our neighborhood or gang banging or whatever we need to open our mouths we need to say something and we shouldn’t live in fear for doing so,” Givens said. “I definitely like I said the officer who was shot yesterday he is in my thoughts and prayers, but at the same token the only way police are gonna establish trust is by having a presence in the community.”

Others echoed the call to end violence.

“It’s frustrating because this is not the first time and I hope this is the last time. It’s frustrating I’m speechless, I can’t say anything, but I’m just very sad inside for these things to happen here on my property. It could happen anywhere else here. For this kid to lose his life here I’m very very very sad. We can’t take it anymore we have to do something about it,” said Michael Issa, the landlord of the property for the past 20 years.

“Ever since 2015, since my son was murdered all I have seen is murder, murder, kill, kill around here. The cops, I feel like they need to do a better job than what they’re doing for this community to save our people,” said Starlett Clark.

St. Petersburg Police said they’ve had high visibility with extra squads in the area in the last month due to the recent increase in violence. They also said police are preparing to roll out body cameras next week.

The rollout will take around 6 to 8 weeks. Every uniformed officer will wear them.

The Pinellas County Use of Deadly Force Investigative Task Force is investigating Wednesday’s shooting. The sheriff’s office encouraged people to wait for their final report before coming to conclusions. The sheriff said the state attorney’s office is conducting a parallel, independent investigation.

The officers involved in the shooting will be placed on administrative leave.

The sheriff provided the following information about those involved, noting some would not be identified by name due to their undercover capacity:

SIU Detective 1
White Male, 36 years of age, 14 years of service.
5 previous years of discipline: 0 Incidents
Was previously involved in two incidents in which his firearm was discharged:
In 2007, he had an accidental discharge of his firearm after being stuck by a
vehicle. The weapon discharged in the air and there were no injuries.
In 2013, the officer and another officer discharged their weapons and killed a
suspect during an exchange of gunfire. The suspect was killed. The suspect was
wanted for a just occurred homicide. The shooting was ruled justified.

SIU Detective 2
White Male, 37 years of age, 12 years of service.
5 previous years of discipline: 0 Incidents
Was previously involved in one incident in which his firearm was discharged:
In 2008, the officer and another officer discharged their weapons and killed a
vicious dog. The shooting was ruled justified.

SIU Detective 3
Black Female, 29 years of age, 2 years of service.
5 previous years of discipline: 0 Incidents of discipline
No prior shooting incidents.

SIU Detective 4
White Male, 41 years of age, 13 years of service.
5 previous years of discipline: 0 Incidents
No prior shooting incidents.

SIU Detective 5
Black Male, 49 years of age, 28 years of service.
5 previous years of discipline: 0 Incidents
He was previously involved in two incidents in which his firearm was
discharged:
In 2003, he and several other detectives discharged their firearms after a
suspect pointed a handgun at them during an armed robbery investigation to a
business. The suspect survived. The shooting was ruled justified.
In 2008, he discharged his firearm during an exchange of gunfire with a
robbery suspect. The suspect survived. The shooting was ruled justified.

Officer Richard McKee
White Male, 58 years of age, 28 years of service.
5 previous years of discipline: 1 Incident. This disciplinary incident
resulted in a 5-day suspension for Improper Procedures and was related to
check on/ check-off procedures.
He was previously involved in one incident in which a firearm was discharged:
In 2010, Officer McKee had an accidental discharge when clearing a firearm
that was seized during a search warrant. There were no injuries.