JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Two days after State Attorney Melissa Nelson announced she won't seek charges against a JSO officer who shot a 22-year-old suspect last year, protesters made there voices heard outside Duval County Courthouse Wednesday night.
"No justice, no peace!," they shouted, among other mottos, as they protested the 2016 shooting death of Vernell Bing Jr. and, in a separate incident in July this year, the deadly shooting of Keegan von Roberts reportedly at the hands of his neighbor, Michael Centanni.
Bing's death came at the end of a high-speed police chase after Bing crashed the car he was driving into the cruiser of officer Tyler Landreville, who moments later shot him. In her 36-page finding regarding the case, Nelson cited a police report indicating that Bing was driving a stolen car through traffic at speeds exceeding 100 mph. The report also claims Bing actually accelerated immediately before the head-on crash, and that as Bing then began to flee on foot, he turned toward Landreville and motioned toward his waist, as if to reach for a weapon.
"I know for a fact that JSO lies on those reports," organizer and speaker Christina Kittle asserted at Wednesday's protest. Kittle told First Coast News she had read Nelson's release, but declined to identify any specific portion that she felt is a lie.
Kittle said she is trying to organize a Jacksonville police accountability council, claiming that existing oversight panels are closed loops that include individuals with vested interests.
"So, a lot of these review boards are, you know, husbands or ex-cops or wives of cops," Kittle claimed, "or have some kind of relationship to [Mayor] Lenny Curry."
Bing's family was present, but declined to speak on-camera, his mother expressing concern that the media might distort her message. However, von Roberts' mother, Cecilia Shepard, spoke openly about the events leading to her son's death, which she said was a dispute about a piece of litter.
"It was a piece of paper, a little piece of paper that blew off the back of [Keegan's] car, because he worked at a car wash," Shepard said. "That evening [Centanni] waited on my son to come home, and as soon as I pulled up he came with a loaded gun."
Shepard said her son had been returning from a date with his wife, the couple expecting their second child. Centanni, she claimed, goaded a reluctant Keegan to get out of his car with comments such as "You wanna play?!," before shooting him.
She said Centanni continues to flaunt and taunt.
"He's went to every neighbor on the block and said 'I killed Keegan'," Shepard said, claiming that Nelson keeps telling her she doesn't know what crime was committed.
"You have a confession, you have a gun, you have a dead person, and you have a witness. What more do you need?!," she begged rhetorically.
As the group chants continued with "What do we want? Justice! When do we want it? Now!," another speaker, James Evans Muhammad of Black Educators for Justice, offered an ominous prediction to First Coast News.
"What I'm really concerned about is, what is going on in St. Louis right now, what went on in Ferguson, if we're not careful here in Jacksonville, the same type of unrest will be coming to this city," Muhammad said. "And it will be much more devastating," he concluded.
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