Crime & Courts
In letter, Tampa chief defends officers who shot teen
TAMPA - Police Chief Jane Castor said it was "a tragedy" that a 16-year-old boy would be armed with an assault-style shotgun but she doesn't apologize for herself or the officers who fatally shot the teen on Sunday. In a letter to the Florida Sentinel Bulletin, a newspaper published for Tampa's black community, Castor said she told Javon Neal's mother that she was sorry for his death, but "I do not, and will not, apologize for the actions of my officers. In fact I stand firmly in support, knowing that if not for their quick reaction to this dangerous threat, they may not have gone home to their families. "I can ask my officers to lay down their lives for the good in our community; I cannot and will not do so for those who are breaking the law." According to police, Officers Gregory Pryor and Shannon Murphy went to Central Court Apartments, 2510 Central Ave., after residents heard gunshots.The officers spotted someone who matched the description given in the 911 call and followed him to the south side of the complex, yelling for him to stop, police said. But Javon Neal kept going and ran up three flights on an outside staircase, stopped on the third-floor landing and began pulling something out of his pant leg, police said. The teen whirled around brandishing a pistol grip, pump-action shotgun and pointed it at the officers, McElroy said. The gunman didn't fire, but police did. Neal was taken to St. Joseph's Hospital, where he was pronounced dead. The officers have been placed on administrative leave with pay until the investigation is completed. Castor called it "a tragedy" that Neal "would be armed with such a dangerous weapon as an assault style shotgun." Some residents have raises questions about whether race was a factor in the shooting, a charge police deny. In the letter, Castor accused some who criticized the shooting as "spewing misinformation and trying to create a wedge between the community and their police officers."