On Black Friday 2012, an argument at a Jacksonville, Florida gas station turned deadly when Michael Dunn fired 10 bullets into the vehicle next to him. Three of those bullets struck 17-year old Jordan Davis who would die minutes later. Dunn would claim self defense as he faced trial for the death of Jordan Davis and attempted murder the two other boys with Jordan.
I sat with Ron Davis, the father of Jordan Davis, to talk about how the documentary 3 1/2 Minutes, 10 Bullets that covers the trial of Michael Dunn. Ron talks about how the documentary came to be and the support he’s received since his son’s death.
My dad is from Jacksonville, Florida and my mom lives right by that gas station.
Ron Davis: Wow. Did they call you about what happened?
My mom called me about it. When I went down to visit last fall, I didn’t realize she lived that close to the gas station. It was a little emotional to think about because my nephew just turned 9 years old. I have to have that conversation my dad had with me, with my nephew.
RD: Whew. That hits home with a lot of parents. People come up to me and the they say, “I have a 13 year old kid and I worry about him every night coming home.” Why do we have to have that conversation in America? Why do we have a government that allows us to be oppressed? Even when we get a black President in the White House, he can’t stem the tide of oppression in America.
He can’t even talk about it….
RD: He can’t even talk about it. Every time he talks about [race] you hear, “Whoa! Don’t you represent us? Aren’t we American’s too?”
How did you get started making 3 ½ Minutes, 10 Bullets?
RD: Jordan was killed on the 23rd of November 2012. The first few weeks after that it was all over the news. We did a segment the 2nd week of December with Soledad O’Brien for CNN. Then the Newtown, Connecticut shootings happened on December 14th. We went in MSNBC and it drew the viewing of the national media. Rolling Stone Magazine was looking at the story along with Ebony and Jet Magazine. Jet called me and said they were going to put Jordan on the cover of Jet Magazine. He was the first non celebrity on the cover in 41 years and it was one of their biggest issues. Rolling Stone called and said they wanted to send their senior writer (Paul Solotaroff) to spend a week with the family and spend time with the boys. He wrote a beautiful article that was about 8 pages titled “A Most American Way to Die”. Minette Nelson, she’s with The Filmmaker Fund, had this story brought to her attention by her son. She sent a letter to my attorney and it was so heartfelt that I decided to call her. We talked about Jordan, our kids, and we were both crying on the phone. She said there’s a director named Mark Silver out of London who just won a Sundance Award for cinematography. She wanted him to direct this documentary. He flew over from London and Minette flew in from San Francisco, and I felt so comfortable with them. I knew they would tell the story. They felt Jordan’s story. When the trial came up, Minette talked to the judge and said, “We would love to use our cameras.” The judge didn’t know they were filming for a documentary. She wanted to film with HD cameras and use it as the feed to local and national media. That courtroom hadn’t been used before. The new courthouse was built in Jacksonville and inside is one huge courtroom that hadn’t been used. They wanted to use it for this big trial and the judge wanted to make sure it got full exposure. That’s how we got the footage in the courtroom.
We were contacted by HBO and they decided to come aboard help with the US distribution rights for the film. HBO is going to show it in the fall. They’re going to air it on November 23rd, the 3rd anniversary of Jordan’s death.
The courtroom stuff was eye-opening to me. The way Michael Dunn talked about Jordan and his friends…
RD: “They’re just thugs. I can kill them with impunity. I didn’t have to dial 911.” In the interview at the beginning of the film he doesn’t think he’s in trouble. He thinks it’s his Stand Your Ground rights to kill a kid – no thoughts of grief or anything.
The thing that bothers me the most in all these cases is the defendants saying, “I’d do it again.”
RD: How? That means you would shoot an unarmed person. In the film, Judge Healey says in regards to laws allowing people to do bodily harm and take lethal force, “It’s not whether you can do it, did you have to do it?”
That was powerful.
RD: Why do you feel because the law is behind you that you would want to do it? You’re saying to yourself, “If the law says I might get away with it, I might as well do it.”
Jordan’s case spoke to me a lot because it deals with the automatic assumption of guilt that gets washed over black men all the time. You hear that in Dunn’s statements.
RD: Dunn’s expectation and his hope throughout this trial was that his lawyer could find some criminal records on the boys. I bet his lawyer found out that they were good kids.
I saw a heavy response on Twitter and social media during the trial. Did you sense any of that?
RD: Yeah. I got text and calls from people. The Million March New York asked me to come up and lead the march on a day of protest. I got a call from Emmett Till’s cousin. I got a call from Oscar Grant’s uncle, and mom. Trayvon’s parents called me and we talked – Sybrina and I are constantly in contact. Some celebrities called as well. People can’t believe this happened. They feel like it happened to their child. We got a call from the White House and President Obama asked us to join him at the White House for My Brother’s Keeper initiative. On that initiative, we were there and they spoke about Jordan. To have the President write that in a speech about your son and have him acknowledge that you’re in the room was good. I joined the Human Rights Network. They took me to Geneva, Switzerland and I spoke about Jordan and what’s happening down in Ferguson in front of the United Nations. This is getting the world’s attention.