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Man hurt in teen brawl dies

He tried to break up a fight in Clearwater, but someone pushed him, witnesses tell his family.

By DEMORRIS A. LEE, Times Staff Writer
Published August 1, 2007


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CLEARWATER - A Palm Harbor man who suffered a severe head injury in a brawl that broke out after a teen party died Tuesday, police say.

Leon Dash moved back to Pinellas County in July after spending six months helping a friend hang drywall in Indiana.

Dash was living with his sister in Palm Harbor and getting ready to get his own place. And on Sunday nights, the well-built 48-year-old would work as a bouncer, helping his nephew, Damon Wade, a promoter of parties for teens.

While trying to defuse a dispute between teens in a downtown Park Street parking lot early Monday morning, Dash was pushed and fell, according to family members who said they have talked to people who were present. He hit his head. Tuesday morning, Dash died as a result of those injuries, said Clearwater police.

"This is very senseless," said Dash's elder sister, Elaine Wade, 51, of Clearwater. "They did not have to do this. No one was being threatened. There was no reason for them to do this. Now they have hurt so many people."

According to Clearwater police, as a crowd of teens left the Atrium Martini Bar at 601 Cleveland St., a brawl broke out and Dash tried to mediate. Dash was found unconscious and with head injuries about 2 a.m. He was flown to Bayfront Medical Center in St. Petersburg Monday morning where he died before dawn Tuesday.

Clearwater police spokesman Wayne Shelor said that the police investigation has now turned into a homicide investigation. An autopsy is being performed and the results should be available in the next few days, Shelor said.

"With preliminary autopsy results, we will have something that will help us advance this investigation," Shelor said.

Dash was raised in south Clearwater and graduated from Clearwater High School in 1977. He then spent several years in the Army National Guard, Wade said. The only son of four children, Dash learned the drywall trade from his father.

"We had been talking about all the things that we were going to fix around the house, getting ready for his first grandchild," said his daughter, Tashyra Dash, 23, who is expecting a baby Aug. 13. "Now, he will not get a chance to hold his granddaughter."

Tashyra Dash, who lives in St. Petersburg, said she was still "in shock" after getting the phone call informing her that her father had been injured.

"It's like I'm in a fog," she said. "It's like I'm in a dream and it's not real. They just don't know what they took from us. He didn't deserve this."

Dash also has a son, Marvin Dash, 26, who lives in Mississippi.

Family members said Dash was a man who loved his family. They described him as an intelligent man who could find teachable moments in almost any situation and a creative man who grew up loving trains.

"I looked through his book this morning and I saw this train he had drawn with a pencil," Elaine Wade said. "It reminded me of the train tracks he used to have as a child. It was just so detailed. From the tracks to what was on the ground around the tracks, it was all detailed. He was so talented."

Clearwater community activist Jonathan Wade is the father of Damon Wade, the sponsor of the teen party. He said his son had been sponsoring the parties throughout the city for about year but had never had anything like Monday morning's incident happen. Jonathan Wade said his son is having a hard time dealing with his uncle's death.

"This is stupid violence," Jonathan Wade said. "It's senseless violence. It's just a continuation of the ignorance that a small group of young people are perpetrating throughout the city."

Dash's sister Ladwayna Gilghrest, 43, also of Clearwater, said that her brother, who stood about 5 feet, 9 inches tall and weighed about 170 pounds, was very fit. And though people would see his muscles and "think one thing," once they talked to him, they would realize that they had it all wrong. Sunday, he came by Gilghrest's house and lifted weights.

"No matter what our conversation was, he would always end it with 'Love you, Sis,' " Gilghrest said. "How many men you know can say I love you like that? But Sunday, before he left, he said 'Love you Sis.' "

Demorris A. Lee can be reached at 445-4174 or dalee@sptimes.com.

[Last modified July 31, 2007, 22:18:29]


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