The shooting of seventeen-year-old Jordan Davis marked yet another tragic and senseless death of an unarmed, innocent, African-American teenager. Rather than seeing Jordan or his friends for what they were — ordinary teenagers — Mr. Dunn saw a threat and recklessly acted with lethal force.  

We will never know exactly what Mr. Dunn was thinking when he fired nine rounds at Jordan and his friends, but we have some very strong clues.  We know that Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law emboldens people to take matters into their own hands and use deadly force, despite the absence of a threat, let alone a weapon. We know that letters he wrote from jail while awaiting trial provide insight about his thoughts on race and who he perceived to be a criminal. In one, he mentioned that “This jail is full of blacks and they all act like thugs.” He went on to write: “This may sound a bit radical but if more people would arm themselves and kill these [expletive] idiots when they’re threatening you, eventually they may take the hint and change their behavior.”  Finally, we know that the criminalization and demonization of African-Americans-and especially African-American men and boys-is deeply rooted in our nation’s history. 

The verdict in Mr. Dunn’s trial does not change the fact that the same pernicious biases and stereotypes about race, and dangerousness that led to Trayvon Martin’s death played a central role in Jordan’s death as well. We all must work to roll back laws like “Stand Your Ground,” which foster violence and make it harder to prosecute many murders in which racial bias played a role.  We all must work tirelessly for a society in which people are never targeted and criminalized for the color of their skin. We all must continue to struggle for an America that is free from racial discrimination and embraces the moral imperative of racial equality. LDF has worked and continues to work to achieve these goals since our earliest days. By doing so, we and pay tribute to Jordan Davis’ life while helping to heal the deep wounds his tragic death has left behind.

Click here to read more on this case.

Click here to read LDF’s statement on the verdict in the George Zimmerman trial.