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Uhuru candidates slam Pinellas Sheriff’s Office after stolen car chase crash kills teens

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

Jesse Nevel and Akile Cainion, the Uhuru-backed candidates running for St. Petersburg mayor and City Council, are blasting the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office, blaming them for the deaths of the three black teens who died after stealing a sport utility vehicle and speeding away from deputies.

“It was another example of the deliberate murder of black teenagers of Pinellas County Sheriff’s Department,” Nevel said Monday about the deaths of Jimmie Goshey, Dejarae Thomas, and Keontae Brown, who died riding in a stolen Ford Explorer that pinwheeled into the air down Tampa Road early Sunday morning before bursting into flames.

Nevel is running for St. Pete mayor, while Cainion is one of eight candidates running for the District 6 seat on City Council. Both spoke with FloridaPolitics.com after holding a news conference at the Uhuru House in south St. Petersburg.

“The fact that the spin machine had to start going before anyone even knew the victim’s names is the sign of a cover-up taking place,” Cainion added.

Cainion and Nevel are claiming the Sheriff’s Office chased the three youths Sunday morning — something that Sheriff Bob Gualtieri denies.

Gualtieri instituted a policy in 2014 that says deputies can only start a vehicle pursuit if the suspect committed a forcible felony and is an “imminent and/or continuous threat” to the public or if the person is engaged in “extremely dangerous driving.” Deputies are not allowed to initiate a chase regarding a stolen car.

Nevel says that the deaths of the three teens are the fault of the Sheriff’s Office, citing a  press release that was distributed Sunday morning: “Sheriff Bob Gualtieri will be holding a press conference at 8:15 a.m. today (August 6, 2017), to provide the media with additional details regarding a vehicle accident with three fatalities as a result of law enforcement action [empasis added].”

“So I don’t know how that’s an accident if it occurred as a result of law enforcement action,” Nevel said.

At his news conference, Gualtieri called the epidemic of teens stealing cars a deadly game that “needs to stop.” The teenagers involved were repeat offenders and were already being monitored by the Habitual Offender Monitoring Enforcement (HOME) board, he said.

Both Nevel and Cainion compared Sunday’s incident to March 31, 2016, when three black teenage girls — Dominique Battle, Ashaunti Butler and Laniya Miller — died when the gold Honda Accord they were driving plunged into a cemetery pond near Gandy Boulevard. The PCSO said they were fleeing deputies who tried to pull them over, but critics contend the Sheriff’s Office was engaged in a pursuit when the girls drove into the pond. On the campaign trail, both Uhuru candidates have spoken extensively about that event.

“Their own dash cams recorded them going 93 miles per hour. You can’t take what the Sheriff’s Department tells you at face value. It means nothing,” said Cainion. She says that law enforcement in Pinellas County takes a different perspective when it comes to stolen cars when it’s a white teenager.

“When they are caught stealing cars, they’re called joy riders,” Cainion said, “and when black teens are allegedly stealing cars, they’re murdered, and they’re called all types of names under the sun, and that’s a reality.”

“What we’re looking at is state sanctioned lynching,” Nevel said. “Black teenagers are not the poster children of crime in St. Petersburg. They are the victims of crime.”

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Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served as five years as the political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. He also was the assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley. He's a San Francisco native who has now lived in Tampa for 15 years and can be reached at mitch.perry@floridapolitics.com.

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