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He came out when he heard the sides growing tense. He jumped into neighborhood projects, working in a community garden and street clean ups. Davis, a broadband distribution specialist, had ed the protest with a gun in the back of his waistband, a cup in his hand.
Police had even stepped back and left the streets to the protesters, so they would not crowd sidewalks. Some were members of a group called Community Patriots Pinellas, others were part of the Blue Thunder motorcycle club. A few carried flags for the Three Percenters, a far-right militia group. A woman leaned out her car window and screamed over and over into the night.
It went deeper than that, he said. She had noticed the confrontation brewing and wanted to film the scene to make sure no one got hurt. He fell backward and landed on his feet.
Davis and the two others were still following. Police questioned English, records show, but decided that video showed he acted in self-defense. Earlier in the summer, he punched a man who charged at him during a confrontation. He began walking over to arrest the men, he wrote in an internal memo, because they had refused his order to leave the area.
But the protests pierced his cynicism. One carried brass knuckles. The St. They saw his enthusiasm and creativity, the way he greeted newcomers and transformed every chant into a full-throated song. Once free, he threw his energy into spreading misinformation, like the time he pretended to be the uncle of Sandy Hook shooter Adam Lanza. For weeks, the protests sweeping the country had grated on him, his Facebook showed. That night, dozens of people in biker gear and waving American flags marched toward Beach Drive, vowing to stand in for the police.
As the man opened his car door and began to step out, Davis reached for the back of his pants.
His shirt flicked up, revealing a gun. Medical records reviewed by the Times show she went to the hospital for loss of consciousness, head trauma and nerve damage. Growing up in the southern part of St. Petersburg, Cloud had watched neighbors deal drugs to pay the bills and his mother skip meals so her children could eat — such a contrast to the pristine streets and gleaming restaurants he sometimes passed on the Northside. Rounding the Vinoy hotel, Riches was following a white man in a baseball cap who ran toward English and Cloud.
His schools were segregated and failingplaces where teachers had no energy to help him manage his attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder and police officers wielded pepper spray to keep students in line. But Cloud, 20, had spent the summer recovering from an injury, the protests only a blur on the internet.
Then a Facebook post alarmed him. His mother, working long hours as a certified nursing assistant, could barely support her four children. He liked that the protesters talked about systems that had shaped his life: The school-to-prison pipeline. One post linked to a video of a man shooting a Black Lives Matter protester during a tussle in New Mexico.
A local right-wing blogger, Cathi Chamberlain, marched with him. Diners gawked from sidewalk tables. His mother thought his tendency to resort to his fists came from growing up without a father around.
One showed protesters walking over a car at a crosswalk and hitting it with a skateboard. The Tampa Bay Times reviewed hours of footage, spoke with eight people who were on the scene that night, examined investigative records and interviewed the police chief, the prosecutor who oversaw the case and criminal justice experts to understand what happened that night and in the aftermath.
Riches once described his tactics to a reporter : After a high-profile event, like a mass shooting, he might set up social media s with fake information, he said. Classmates treated him like an outsider. Matthew McKinney finally appeared in the median of Beach Drive.
Davis left the gun where it was. Ashe could be sensitive and loved to immerse himself in Japanese cartoons and drawing — but he also could explode if he felt teased or disrespected. Housing segregation.
In New Port Richey, where he is sometimes based, he researched the personal lives of Black Lives Matter protesters, then posted on Facebook and taunted them at rallies. He knew it made him a target and his prominence in the Black Lives Matter movement had already led to run-ins. Racial profiling. They ran up and began shoving protesters standing on the outside of the circle. Then, he drew a gun on Cloud, who is Black. If you are reading this on our mobile app, this story will not fully load. Cox stepped backward and tripped on a man in a white shirt, who had been filming her earlier, she later said.
Some diners clapped or flashed thumbs up. Scanning the crowd, her eyes settled on Cloud. Cloud first appeared at the protests on a sweltering day in August, carrying a skateboard and shaking the hair out of his eyes. Prosecutors agreed Davis acted in self-defense.
McKinney was later disciplined with an employee notice for failing to provide effective leadership and oversight that night, records show. If this was his time to die, he thought, at least he was protecting a woman — the same age as his mother — who was fighting for him. Instead, police relied on blurry images to blame Cloud and another Black protester for provoking Davis.
A supervisor interrupted and told him to stand down. But conservative pundits seized on the videos, and they became the perfect call to action. Then, video shows, Davis shoved Cox. Her head hit a car and then the pavement as she crashed down, she said. Cloud stood next to her, trying to keep English calm.
As the march reached a boiling point, a white man named Laurence Davis ran up to protesters, looking to disrupt them. Davis, still holding the gun, kept walking.
She also drew a straight line from the case to the Capitol insurrection, where white Trump supporters streamed videos while attacking police and ransacking the building. In another, protesters sat down at the table of two Parkshore Grill diners after heated comments were exchanged.
The video of the protesters bothering restaurant diners had caught her attention. Minutes later, Davis shook his hand. He shoved one so hard, she ended up in the hospital for head trauma.
A ‘black misfit’
Neither spoke to police or prosecutors, distrustful of the process. Lawrance English rode his bike at the front of the march. They invited him to the de-escalation team, which planned routes and defused conflicts with hecklers. He walked back into the crowd, where he shoved others. It was Laurence Davis. He learned how to al cars at the crosswalk while the light was still red, so protesters could walk through the street.
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A year veteran of the St. Petersburg Police Department, he was in charge of monitoring the scene that night and had been watching live feeds from afar. When Davis and two other men yelled at a group of protesters chanting on the median, McKinney spread his arms wide and walked Davis away.
When an officer arrived, Davis was not stopped. He reminded himself what the protest leaders had said — the faster they finished the march, the less chance for mishaps. All of it was captured on video. A year-old security guard, he usually took on the job of blocking cars so protesters could pass. When he was 15, two white students stole a gun and blamed it on him.
For the first time, a group of counter-protesters had advertised plans to stop Black Lives Matter demonstrators from marching in the streets.
Earlier that night, Davis had yelled at a Black man in a car. McKinney heard about the confrontation over the radio. Davis declined multiple requests to speak with a reporter, but the men accused of threatening him agreed. Another protester, Kimberly Cox, ran up with her phone out.
But as he stepped from his cruiser, he missed the radio report that Davis had pointed a gun moments before. Videos filmed by a Times reporter had gone viral two nights earlier.