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Mayor, others ask for calm in wake of verdict

St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Baker pledges to raise scholarship money for the son of the late TyRon Lewis.

By Times Staff Writer
Published May 14, 2004

[Times photo: Willia Allen Jr]
Pamela Lewis, mother of TyRon Lewis, walks out of the court building waving to media cameras followed by her friends and family members.

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[Times photo: Lara Cerri]
State Representative Frank Peterman, left, Pinellas County Commissioner Calvin Harris and St. Petersburg City Council Member Earnest Williams confer before the press conference at City Hall When Peterman stepped up to the podium, he told the crowd, "I don't agree with the verdict."

family   After the verdict, the Lewis family met with attorneys and then left the building. In the photo, they are exiting on the elevator.

[Times photo: Bill Serne]

UHURU Movement Member Sateesh Rogers talks with members of the media after the jury verdict today.

[Times photo: Willie Allen Jr.]


photo   William Drake, St. Petersburg's lawyer, gives closing arguments today.

[Times photo: Bill Serne]

Mayor Rick Baker and other elected officials asked for calm this afternoon following the verdict in favor of the city in the lawsuit filed by the family of TyRon Lewis, who was killed by a police officer in 1996.

"For those who will use this verdict to commit acts of criminal violence in the city, I would urge you to reconsider," Baker said.

Baker said he would raise the money to pay for a four-year college scholarship for Lewis' 9-year-old son. He said he made that offer during unsuccessful settlement negotiations. The mayor said those negotiations broke down because positions hardened "due to the feeling the city was being threatened." Sporadic violence in the Midtown area broke out Wednesday night.

"I am hoping and praying the African-American community will be safe tonight," said Rep. Frank Peterman, D-St. Petersburg, who said he did not agree with the verdict. "I don't think it was a justified shooting."

But Peterman praised the mayor for his offer to raise money for the college tuition for Lewis' son.

The jury reached its verdict this afternoon in favor of the city in one hour, 12 minutes. Lewis, who was 18 at the time, was killed Oct. 24, 1996, after police pulled him over for speeding. The shooting sparked two nights of disturbances.

Some downtown business take precautions

Two security guards turned away a steady stream of visitors to the Chihuly exhibit, open until 8 p.m. on Fridays, after the Museum of Fine Arts shut its doors before 5 p.m. for "safety'' reasons, one of the guards said.

"Are we under a curfew?'' said one disappointed visitor, attorney Kerry Brown of St. Petersburg.

"This is a small-town reaction. If you live in New York -- what did Rudolph Giuliani say? -- you live your life. You don't have terrorists running your life,'' said Nancy Terry, who with Brown has not yet seen the art glass exhibit, scheduled to close May 30.

Jaime Arute and Jodi Reeves, who work at the Renaissance Vinoy Resort, were among those turned away. "I'm surprised by the closing,'' said Reeves. "I'm not worried at all.''

"I have faith in the local police,'' Arute said.

Across the street at the Marketplace Express, manager Brian Carter, 30, was getting out of downtown as soon as he closed the gourmet coffee shop at 6. "I just remember the violence last time and wouldn't take the risk of going out tonight.

"Better to be safe than sorry."

--Times staff writers Susau Aschoff and Nancy Paradis contributed to this report [Last modified May 18, 2004, 09:51:55]

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