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Tuesday, Sep 19, 2017
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State Attorney: Tampa police justified in shooting armed teen

TAMPA - Tampa police officers acted properly in the July 22 fatal shooting of 16-year-old Javon Neal at the Central Court Apartments, the Hillsborough County State Attorney's Office ruled Tuesday. State Attorney Mark Ober made the announcement in a letter to Tampa police Chief Jane Castor. "Based upon my review of the facts, reports, interviews and the applicable law, the use of deadly force by Officers (Shannon) Murphy and (Gregory) Pryor was justifiable," Ober wrote. Murphy and Pryor, who were on administrative leave pending the state attorney's investigation, returned to evening patrol duties on Tuesday, said police spokeswoman Andrea Davis.
The shooting happened about 7:30 p.m. July 22 after officers Pryor and Murphy were called to the apartment complex to investigate reports of gunshots. They spotted someone who matched a description given in a 911 call, followed him to the south side of the complex and yelled at him to stop, police said. Neal ran up an outside staircase and stopped on the third-floor landing. Police said he whirled around and aimed a pump-action shotgun at the officers. Pryor and Murphy fired and killed Neal. Neal's father, Michael Lovett, said he isn't surprised the state attorney's office ruled in favor of police. He plans to obtain a lawyer and consider his options, he said. "You know they were going to justify it," said Lovett, 43, of Tampa. "We are going to get to the bottom of it," Lovett said. "When we get all the evidence on the table, then we'll justify it. All the evidence isn't on the table yet." Community activist Michelle Williams said two weeks isn't long enough to do a thorough investigation. "I cannot allow this to go down like this," Williams said. "There's no way they ruled this fast. This is not right." "There is no way they turned every stone," Williams said. Williams said she visited with the FBI's Tampa office on Tuesday, before learning of the state attorney's ruling, to make a formal complaint of excessive force and to ask the FBI to review the case. An agent told her if the shooting was ruled justified the FBI could review the case and forward its findings to the Department of Justice, Williams said. Tampa police and the state attorney's office declined to comment on the ruling. FBI officials could not be reached for comment Tuesday evening. Councilman Frank Reddick, whose district includes Central Court Apartments, recently said he wants to work with the apartment complex owner to renovate the building. He also wants to turn nearby property into a park or recreational area. He declined to comment on the state attorney's office ruling Tuesday, saying he needed to review the entire report. Several days after the shooting, Castor wrote a letter to the Florida Sentinel Bulletin, a newspaper published for Tampa's black community. "I do not, and will not, apologize for the actions of my officers," Castor wrote. "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," Castor wrote. "I cannot and will not do so for those who are breaking the law."

jpatino@tampatrib.com (813) 259-7659

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