Parents of slain teens (from left to right) Lucy McBath, Ron Davis, Cleopatra and Nathaniel Pendelton (NNPA Photo by Roy Lewis).
Filled with doubt about his future, Jordan Davis, a 17 year-old student at Samuel W. Wolfson High School began to cry one night sitting on the patio of his father’s condo in Jacksonville, Fla.
Like most teenagers, longing for his own identity and independence, Jordan wanted to work and was having a hard time finding a job. He didn’t feel great about his grades, either.
“He said, ‘Dad, I don’t think I’m going to make it,’” Ron Davis, Jordan’s father remembered. “‘I can’t find a job. I’m not doing that well in school. I just don’t think that I’m going to make it.’”
Ron Davis reassured his son and told him that he wasn’t alone.
“You have two parents behind you, you have loved ones behind you,” Davis told his son that night. “Don’t think that you’re in this world by yourself, you’re going to make it.”
Jordan dried his tears and hugged his father.
Looking back, Ron Davis said, maybe he knew more than what I knew at the time. Maybe he saw something.
In 2012, Jordan was living with his father in Jacksonville, Fla., but still maintained close ties with his mother, Lucy McBath, in Atlanta, Ga., and visited often. McBath said that people gravitated to her son, Jordan. He could light up the room with his quick smile and he loved to laugh.
Inside, however, he kept questioning whether he could make it.
Sitting in his mother’s kitchen in Atlanta, Jordan said, “Mom, what would you do if I died?”
Shocked, McBath replied, “Why are you asking me these questions, Jordan?”
“I need to know how you would handle it,” Jordan answered.
McBath told her son that God promised her that he would live a long fruitful life, that he would get married and give her grandchildren one day. Jordan continued to press, telling his mother that he needed to know that she would be okay, that she would be able to go on.
McBath finally told her son that she would be devastated, but she would find the strength to go on. This time it was the teen reassuring one of his parents.
“I’ll be good, you’ll be the ones that will be suffering,” Jordan told his mother. “I’ll be in Heaven with Jesus. I’ll be fine. I’m not afraid to die.”
On November 23, 2012, a few months before his 18th birthday and only a few days before he was scheduled to begin a new job working at McDonald’s, Jordan Davis, an unarmed Black teenager was shot and killed in the parking lot of a Jacksonville gas station by Michael Dunn, a White, computer programmer.
Dunn said that he feared for his life after starting an argument over loud music playing in the teens’ SUV. He claimed to have seen a weapon hanging out of the SUV driven by one of Davis’s friends. But no witnesses confirmed his account and nor was a weapon ever found.
What is beyond dispute is that Dunn continued to fire bullets into the SUV while t Davis and his friends were fleeing. Struck three times, Davis sat in bleeding to death while Dunn fled the scene without notifying police.
In February 2014, Michael Dunn was found guilty of three counts of attempted murder, but the jurors could not agree on the first-degree murder charge connected to Jordan Davis’ shooting death. In interviews after the trial, jurors said that the Dunn murder trial wasn’t about race.
“They probably didn’t want it to be, but the element of race is always there,” said Lucy McBath. “The fact that Michael Dunn was able to describe Jordan as a ‘thug’ and describe his friends as ‘thugs,’ those kinds of words are very specific and play a huge role on people’s opinions and ideas.”
During Black Press Week, the National Newspaper Publishers Association Foundation honored Ron Davis and Lucy McBath for their work advocating for gun control and repeal or reform “Stand Your Ground” laws nationwide.
“That law right there creates all of the loopholes and all of the confusion for jurors on how to decide those self-defense cases,” said McBath.
Davis doesn’t hold any hope for the law to be repealed in Florida, but he says that the law can be rewritten and that’s what they’re fighting for.
“The way it’s written, it takes into account the mind of the shooter,” said Davis. “The victim has no say-so. Why should the shooter be able to make up a story in his mind about why he shot and killed that other person?”
In Florida, a judge decides whether “Stand Your Ground” can be applied. Davis wants that decision placed in the hands of a jury.
The NNPA Foundation also honored the parents of Chicago teenager Hadiya Pendleton who was shot and killed, caught in the crossfire of a Chicago gang war a few miles from a home owned by President Barack Obama.
Ron Davis created The Jordan Davis Foundation to provide educational and travel opportunities for young people across the nation to expose them to different cultures and allow them to explore the world outside of their own neighborhoods.
Lucy McBath founded The Walk With Jordan Scholarship Foundation to provide educational and financial support for students attending four-year colleges and technical training schools.
“We have to educate children to let them know what’s out here and let them know at a young age that they can rally to change the laws,” said Davis. “Young kids think because they’re 14, 15 years old that they can’t do anything, but they can make a difference.”
State Prosecutor Angela Corey said that she would seek a new trial on the first-degree murder charge against Michael Dunn. A new trial date has been set for May 5, but may be delayed to allow time for Dunn’s new lawyer to prepare for the case.
McBath said that they can’t just depend on Jordan’s verdict alone for justice.
“We don’t have a choice to be anything, but optimistic,” said Lucy McBath. “We will continue to work to change the laws no matter what the verdict is.”