Raymond Nelson, President of the Okaloosa County branch of the NAACP, in an interview with the Pensacola Voice, said that the NAACP Black Lives Matter Rally on this past Saturday at Chester Pruitt Park in Ft. Walton Beach, Florida took on the theme of preventing the issue of excessive force by law enforcement against Black males. However, a case of excessive force resulting in the death of a Pensacola Black man has the potential of gaining national attention.
He shared that in his comments on Saturday he stated, “Today is about eliminating being born a suspect.” Nelson feels that young black men are seen as the boogie man and that the community must get involved as “a village” because the NAACP cannot do it alone.
There were several speakers including the Fort Walton Beach Police Capt. Bill Royal. Nelson recapped Royal’s comments that Ft. Walton does not share the same issues of police excessive force but that communication and community participation are lacking with local law enforcement. Royal promoted the Explorer and Citizen’s Police Academy programs as being open to all residents and encouraged community participation.
According to Lewis Jennings, the NAACP Florida State Conference Areas One and Two Area Director, many of the speakers highlighted the significance of voting in local, state and national elections. However, Jennings shared with the Voice concerning the case in Okaloosa County from 2004 where the family alleges excessive force by law enforcement resulting in the death of Demetrius Nelson, a man from Pensacola who died in Destin east of Ft. Walton Beach. The Rev. Willie Farrow also made reference to the death of Demetrius Nelson who died after Okaloosa County sheriff’s deputies stunned him with a Taser several times during a confrontation.
Ray Nelson confirmed that the NAACP Okaloosa Branch is demanding independent and comprehensive federal investigations for the shooting of Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, and John Crawford III, in addition to the strangulation of Eric Garner. However, Nelson added that local NAACP branch officials did meet with the Pensacola family of Demetrius Nelson on the Friday before the rally and the branch is monitoring the pending results of the family’s official request to the reopening of the investigation by Florida Governor Rick Scott and the Department of Justice.
Demetrius Nelson’s mother Clara M. Hodges and his brother Lenus L. Michael have filed an affidavit with Governor Scott and the Justice Department which states that it contains information necessary to support probable cause for the complaint. The affidavit states that the “death of Demetrius Tillman Nelson was no accident. His death was a homicide at the hands of law enforcement and emergency management services officials.” The affidavit goes on to assert, “We contend that Demetrius Tillman Nelson was a victim not a ‘person of interest,’ ‘suspect,’ or a ‘criminal’. We contend that our family member suffered excessive use of force while being falsely arrested and wrongly detained.”
The Nelson family could not be reached for further comment on this story. Nevertheless, the Pensacola Voice would like to thank Ellison Bennett for sharing his knowledge about the Nelson case as he was serving as Escambia County SCLC President when this tragedy happened in July 2004.