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The Boynton Beach Police Department and the police officer who was following Stanley Davis III when the 13-year-old lost control of his dirt bike and died should be held accountable, his family and attorney said Thursday.
South Florida civil rights attorney Ben Crump said he is planning to file a case in federal court for the wrongful death of the teen last month. In Florida, attorneys must notify government entities of their intention to sue and then wait six months before actually filing the suit.
Davis died on Dec. 26, a day after getting the dirt bike as a Christmas gift. Crump said the teen was on his way to a filling station to get gasoline when a Boynton Beach Police officer started following him. The teen, officials have said, lost control of the dirt bike, hit the median and flew through the air, striking a sign.
Crump and the family are demanding the city publicly release any recordings of the incident, such as body-worn cameras or dash cams. The department reiterated in an update on the case Thursday that the officer’s vehicle did not have a dash camera and that they have given all other video and evidence to the Florida Highway Patrol.
The police, to date, have denied requests from the South Florida Sun Sentinel for other video, dispatch audio and any 911 calls.
Crump and his family believe the officer following Davis was violating police policy by pursuing the child. Police policy states that an officer may chase a motorist if the officer reasonably believes that the person has engaged in a forcible felony, such as murder, home invasion or kidnapping. Riding a dirt bike on a public road is a traffic offense.
Crump, Davis’ family and a Palm Beach County community activist vow they will not stay silent until they feel justice will be served. “We will continue to disturb the peace,” Crump said, adding Davis’ parents “won’t let this be swept under the rug, because Stanley Davis’ life mattered.”
Davis’ father, his namesake, said his own death used to scare him and now it no longer does.
“I’m feeling like my life is not worth living anymore,” Davis Jr. said. ”… When my son died, I am not going to say a part of me died — all of me died. I no longer care about my life anymore.
“… You want to see empty, I’ll show you what empty looks like. You want to see pain? This is what pain is.”
Police have refused to identify the officer, citing Marsy’s Law, a Florida voter-approved initiative that allows for the names of crime victims to be withheld. Stephanie Slater, a spokesperson for Boynton Beach Police, said in an email that “the officer invoked his right to Marsy’s Law exemptions as he and his family are victims of ongoing threats to their safety.”
Crump did not name the police officer when asked by the Sun Sentinel at a Thursday morning news conference about the intent to sue.
But Crump said he and the family believe that they know the identity of the officer, and that this officer has a history of violating vehicle pursuit polices that led to the deaths of a man in 2012 and a 5-year-old child in 2016.
The South Florida Sun Sentinel has reviewed prior cases involving the Boynton officer identified by the family, but has not been able to independently confirm that officer is the one accused of following the teenager.
On June 30, 2012, a 38-year-old man was fleeing from a Boynton Beach Police officer on Interstate 95 south of Lantana Road when he veered to the right to attempt to exit the highway and lost control of the car and crashed into the concrete barrier, a Florida Highway Patrol traffic crash report says. The driver was eventually ejected from the car and pronounced dead at the scene.
On Feb. 13, 2016, a 20-year-old man was driving west on Minor Road, fleeing from a Boynton Beach Police officer when he lost control of the car as he attempted to turn and drove onto the sidewalk. The driver fatally struck a 5-year-old boy, according to an FHP traffic crash report.
“We believe he should not have even been on street patrol based on what was going in the 2016 incident,” Crump said.
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The police department said that FHP, the Palm Beach County Medical Examiner’s Office and the police department’s internal affairs each have ongoing investigations.
Boynton Beach Police Chief Michael G. Gregory has said there is no evidence or witness accounts that says the officer’s vehicle came in contact with the boy’s dirt bike.
Davis’ mother said she is outraged, angered and in total disbelief “that this is going on and on and nothing is being done.
“As a parent we stand united. As a community, we stand united. Enough is enough. We are tired of things being swept under the rug,” Shannon Thompson said.