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That’s what nearly 30 people came to the Boynton Beach City Commission meeting Tuesday night to say to elected officials, the police department and the community after the death of the 13-year-old boy who was riding his new Christmas present, a red dirt bike, when he was followed by a Boynton Beach Police officer, lost control of the bike and collided with a median, flinging him off the bike.
Davis III’s family members and friends, pastors and reverends and concerned community members filled the commission chamber, some with signs and T-shirts in support of Davis III, to demand the officer be held accountable for the crash and the circumstances leading up to it and for the investigation the Florida Highway Patrol is conducting to be swift and transparent.
The family and friends who spoke during the nearly two-hour-long public comment brought up what they described as longtime issues between Boynton Beach Police and their community and urged that the relationship between police and the community, especially the Black community, must change. The family said they hope charges will be brought against the officer outside of the investigation.
Shannon Thompson, Davis III’s mother, said the investigation into her son’s death will force the department to look at the policies they have in place and whether they are being followed.
“This disconnect with the community and the police force has been going on for far too long. We would like to unite as one. There’s no reason why our children should even fear law enforcement or even particular law officers,” Thompson said as some clapped and voiced their support.
The commission did not discuss the incident or the ongoing investigation, which were not on the meeting agenda. At the start of the meeting, Mayor Steven Grant briefly apologized to the city, community and police department and said his earlier comment about police responsibility in the incident was misrepresented.
“I would like to say the city and police are responsible for a thorough and diligent investigation. There needs to be transparency and accountability. Our community must put safety and education as a priority,” Grant said. “So I am deeply sorry for any negativity that has come up because of my statements and that I look forward to working with each and every one of you for a better Boynton Beach.”
Some speakers expressed concern that the officer’s vehicle did not have a dashcam to aid in the investigation and called for the department to install them on all the agency’s vehicles.
Just four of the department’s 107 police vehicles are equipped with dashcams — three K9 vehicles and one DUI enforcement vehicle, according to the department.
Other speakers pointed to the department’s policy for vehicle pursuits, which says “vehicular pursuits will be initiated only if the officer reasonably believes that the person(s) fleeing has committed a forcible felony.”
“The way that this occurred was just a blatant misuse of power,” said David Ram, a community organizer in Palm Beach County. “A blind man can see that a pursuit was not warranted. It’s a 13-year-old boy. What did he do? So, this is the type of question that people really don’t need answers to because we know he did nothing.”
The officer involved has been placed on administrative leave, as is department policy, during the investigation. The department has not publicly released the officer’s name, citing Marsy’s Law, a voter-approved constitutional amendment that allows crime victims to shield their name and personal information from the public.
A spokesperson for FHP said the agency’s preliminary investigation shows that the officer did not perform a pursuit intervention technique, which the department’s policy says is “the intentional act of using an authorized emergency vehicle to physically force a fleeing vehicle from its course of travel in order to stop it.”
Shamarie Davis, a 16-year-old cousin of Davis III, told the South Florida Sun Sentinel that her cousin often rode dirt bikes with a group of friends and had been followed by police before, though never while riding alone.
Davis rushed to the scene of the crash on U.S. Highway 1 near Northeast Eighth Avenue and snapped a photo of her holding her cousin’s hand as his body laid lifeless in the road. She wore a black T-shirt at the meeting with the photo printed on the front.
“On the scene, I got there, I just laid down on the ground right by him,” Davis told the Sun Sentinel. “I took off the glove, and I just held [his hand] until they told us to get back.”
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Davis told the commission she wanted to use her allotted three minutes of comment to speak about her cousin’s life rather than his death. Davis III, or as his family and friends called him, “SJ,” had a contagious laugh and sense of humor, was protective over his loved ones and had recently started to form his own personality and interests as he became a teenager, she said.
“SJ always had a higher and greater purpose for everything,” Davis said. “We just didn’t understand that this is what it took for us to see his greater purpose. But we see it, and we’re going to follow it and we’re going to make sure that we keep it living forever.”
Pastor Jovan Davis of St. John Missionary Baptist Church said his church hosted Davis III’s funeral, a funeral that should not have happened, he told the commission.
“I don’t want to see another child rolled into St. John Missionary Baptist Church because a parent, parents, a community has to say farewell to them because of the relationship between police and community,” Davis said.
Davis III’s father, Stanley Davis Jr., said his son never had trouble at home, in the classroom or in the community. He and other family members said they are pained at the thought that the last moments of Davis III’s life were filled with fear.
“I don’t have, like, hatred nor anger for the police. But at this moment, I have a whole lot of hurt inside me. For me to hear from the medical examiner that my son had tears in his eyes, meaning he was crying while being chased … That’s what tears me apart. To know that his final moment, he was alone. He was afraid,” Davis Jr. said through tears.