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Civil rights activists demand answers for family of Jacksonville teen killed in police encounter

A growing number of voices are calling for a special investigation and release of body camera footage in the death of 18-year-old Devon Gregory.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla — The family of 18-year-old Devon Gregory, who died during an exchange of gunfire with police in Jacksonville last month, is speaking out about his death as cries from civil rights groups intensify for a special investigation into what happened the night he died.

On Tuesday, Nov. 17, four police officers with the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office stopped a vehicle on San Juan Avenue near Cassat Avenue in the Lakeshore area. Police said during the stop, the front-seat passenger, later identified as Gregory by friends and family members, became "agitated" and officers tried to de-escalate the situation without success. 

The medical examiner said Gregory shot himself. The medical examiner has not determined whether the self-inflicted shot or the shots by police were fatal.

Gregory's family and attorney were joined by Bishop Tavis Grant, national field secretary for the Rainbow Push Coalition, along with other organizations from Jacksonville for a news conference at noon at City Hall in Downtown Jacksonville.

“We feel disrespected,” Tina Rhiles, Devon Gregory’s cousin said for the family.

“This has been a hellified experience for her and her family. For the last 20 minutes of his life, he is pleading, he is crying, he is in a crisis, he is seeking help, and got no help,” Bishop Tavis Grant of the national group, Rainbow PUSH Coalition said.

Devon Gregory’s mother, Tawana Myrick stood next to her family attorney Kevin O’Connor, in tears as the attorney and Grant describe what happened to Gregory that night. 

"This child was snatched from the car by the teeth of a dog," Grant said. "There was no attempt to even check for a pulse."

An independent autopsy shows Gregory was shot 13 times.

Family says it shows K-9’s dragged Gregory out of the car and had at least nine bites.

 “There are three wounds to the head of Devon Gregory, not one, three. when the family was rushed in as the ME rushed to an opinion, they rushed to give an image,” Bishop Tavis Grant said.

Family attorneys are requesting all other dash camera and body camera video.

Clyde Mclemore, a regional director of the Black Lives Matter group says it’s sad to see another young life ended.

“Nobody should be killed for a traffic stop. What we’ve seen around this country is an epidemic,” Mclemore said.

As family demand to see more evidence—they say they’ve been left in the dark.

”We don’t know what’s going on, what happened, why it happened, we’re not even sure how it happened. We saw what y’all saw, which is not enough,” Rhiles said.

“Far too many African Americans are harassed, profiled, and killed at the hands of police," Grant said in a release. "What is most concerning is the cloud of suspicion and the lack of transparency along with the openness of local officials to sit at the table with community leaders to address this racial pandemic. Black people are endangered today everywhere. Driving while black, jogging while black, sleeping while black, and just living while black. JSO has a pattern and practice of harassment, unlawful detention, and intimidation that must be stopped. We want and deserve equal protection under the law."

Local civil rights groups are pushing for the release of all body-cam video from that night as well as engaging city leaders in discussions about the community's concerns about police.

JSO Chief T.K. Waters said the exchange resulted in gunfire from all four officers. Waters said a handgun was located in the passenger seat where the Gregory was sitting.

The officers were placed on administrative leave, according to protocol. Police say the circumstances that led up to the shooting are still being investigated.

In November, the SPLC released a statement saying in part that Gregory's death "reflects an ongoing pattern of American police departments' extrajudicial killings, unnecessary lethal force and violence against young Black people." 

The nonprofit civil rights organization joins Bishop Tavis Grant and Rev. Jesse Jackson in demanding a broader investigation into Gregory's death.

The State Attorney's Office will be conducting its own investigation, but SPLC says the state attorney should involve federal agencies and investigators in its probe.

A wake for Gregory is set to take place from 5 to 7 p.m. Friday at Sarah L. Carter's Funeral Home Northside Chapel, located at 6665 New Kings Road in Jacksonville. His funeral will be Saturday at 11 a.m., with burial at Restlawn Cemeteries South. Grant will give the eulogy.

 A "Justice for Devon and All Victims of Police Brutality" rally will be at 6 p.m. at the Duval County Courthouse at 501 W. Adams St.