© 2024 WOSU Public Media
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

A Son Lost In '3 1/2 Minutes' — And A Tragic Anniversary For His Parents


It's Thanksgiving week, a time when many American families travel to reconnect. Kids come home. It's a happy time, unless, tragically, a phone call comes - the kind no parent wants to get. Three years ago tomorrow, the parents of 17-year-old Jordan Davis got that phone call. While out with friends, Jordan had been shot at a gas station by a man named Michael David Dunn, who objected to the loud music the teens had been playing in their car. That shooting took place against the backdrop of the killing of another unarmed black teenager in Florida months earlier. But although the dynamics of the two cases were similar, the outcome was different. Dunn was eventually convicted of murder. Now there's a new documentary about the story and the trial. It's called "3 1/2 Minutes, Ten Bullets." It premieres on HBO tomorrow night. The parents of Jordan Davis, Ron Davis and Lucia McBath, are featured prominently in the film. And I asked them what it was like to live through that period - the grieving, the trial - in front of a film crew.

LUCIA MCBATH: It's very difficult. Strangers and people that don't know you don't understand your pain. There's no way they can completely understand your pain. They don't understand completely the fear that you have, you know, that - these things continuing to happen, and nobody's willing to listen, or nobody's willing to do anything about it. You know, we're not valued as black Americans - that we have no value if we have to live in this country that way.

MARTIN: Mr. Davis, what about you? What did you want to say about this?

RON DAVIS: Well, you know, the film shows that strong men do cry, you know? Strong men cry for their sons and their daughters and their families. And so I think through the media, whenever these tragedies happen - they don't show the men and how we feel as protectors of our families.

MARTIN: I want to play short clip from the film. This is where you're actually reminiscing about the birth of your son. Let me just play a short clip.


DAVIS: When me and Lucy tried to have a child, she had a few miscarriages, and we were, you know, really distraught about that. We thought, we'll never have a child together. Like a miracle - you know, it was like - she's pregnant, and she just couldn't believe it.

MARTIN: Is part of your mission here to help people see your son and, by definition, other black boys as people?

DAVIS: Right. You know, when you have African-Americans you see on television and you see in the movies, for the most part, they advertise you as being a drug dealer or somebody that Michael Dunn would put in his head that they're a gangster. This film shows you - no, we're not that type of people. You know, we're the people that care about our family. We're the people that have feelings, and we hurt. And so that's what I want to show in this film. Actually, it's also for the families that don't get justice. You know, we're one of the few families that got complete justice where there's no watered-down justice - first-degree murder, no pardon, no probation, no nothing, you know. And so...

MARTIN: To that end, the film has quite a lot of footage from the trial, but it also has interactions that Michael Dunn, the shooter, had with other people in his life leading up to it. And I just want to play a short clip from a conversation he had with his then-fiancee from the jailhouse.


MICHAEL DUNN: I just can't shake the notion that I'm, like, you know - I'm the rape girl that they're blaming because I was wearing skimpy clothes. Like, I'm the victim that's being blamed. I was attacked, and I refused to be the victim. And now - now I'm being punished for it.

MARTIN: Ms. McBath, what was that like for you to hear that?


MARTIN: Clearly, not - this is not just the substance of that conversation. That really was the substance of his defense - was that he was the victim.

MCBATH: Absolutely. I mean, that only validated for me who we were dealing with. I mean, we knew there was a racial element to the shooting and...

MARTIN: Because Mr. Dunn is white and because her son is African-American? Or...

MCBATH: And because of the things that he said. He called them thugs. He called them gang bangers - that they had a gun. You know, he, within the first three and a half minutes, he sized up those boys and decided that they were thugs. He already racially profiled them.

MARTIN: You know, it's - in case people don't remember, your son was killed in the same year that Trayvon Martin was killed.


MARTIN: I think many people now are familiar with the Florida stand-your-ground statute. And given the backdrop of all of that, what were your expectations going into the trial, which happened the following year? Did you feel confident that you would see an outcome that you sought?

DAVIS: I knew the evidence would point that Michael Dunn was wrong. He tried to escape. He didn't dial 9-1-1. You know, he had every chance in the world to turn himself in. This guy - he ran back to his home two and a half hours away and...

MARTIN: Ordered a pizza.

DAVIS: ...Ordered a pizza, had a rum and Coke, you know, walked his dog. And so because of where Jordan was at the same year - that they had to win this case at all costs.

MARTIN: What about you, Ms. McBath? Going into this, did you have an expectation that there would be an outcome that you wanted?

MCBATH: I was very skeptical and very afraid because I'd seen what happened with Trayvon Martin's case. And that was the first time, too, I'd ever had any understanding as to what stand-your-ground was and how it was being used in these cases. Based upon what we'd seen in the country, you know, with other cases with white shooters against black males, I was not so sure that we were - even with all the evidence that we had, even as justified as those boys were to be in that space, doing whatever they were doing, I was not sure that we would walk out with a conviction, really, of any kind.

MARTIN: What would you say, though, to those - and I know this is an issue that came up during the trial - that there are people who did identify with Michael Dunn because your son did get into an argument. Michael Dunn, you know, expressed some distaste for the music? Apparently, the boys turned it down initially, and then your son said, no, I'm not doing that, and turned it - and they got into kind of a verbal altercation. The prosecutor referenced this in his opening statement. Apparently, some people found that threatening. How would you respond to that?

MCBATH: Those are only words. Those are only words. If my child has not said, I'm going to kill you, and he's not getting out of the car, those are only words. And those were teenagers - just Jordan trying to be bad and brash in front of his boys. You simply either park your car down the way, roll up your window and ignore them. But the fact that he would ensue an altercation with them was simply because...

MARTIN: He started this confrontation.

MCBATH: He started the confrontation. Absolutely.

MARTIN: Right. What do you make of all this, now that this is all transpired? How do you think about all these events now? Obviously, you still - and I should've started by saying, I'm very sorry for your loss of your son.

MCBATH: Thank you.

DAVIS: Thank you.

MCBATH: Thank you.

MARTIN: But what do you think about all this?

MCBATH: It's devastating. When we look at the table for Christmas and Thanksgiving, there's always an empty chair. You know, when Jordan's friends convene together, going to the games or the movies, there's always one person missing. You know, so even though there's been justice, there's still complete injustice of the fact that we're having to deal with these kinds of killings - senseless killings that continue to go on.

DAVIS: The next time you say goodbye to somebody might very well be goodbye because when I said goodbye to Jordan on Black Friday, and I gave him some money to go to the mall, and I'm hugged him and said, I'll see you tonight, you couldn't tell me that I wouldn't ever, ever see my son alive again. So that has changed me. So when I talk to people, and I hug people, and they feel that heartfelt hug, I really mean it because I never know if I'm going to see you again ever. Maybe I'm not here, or you're not here. So I'm very genuine when I hug people and talk to people, and I look them straight in the eye and realize - I see you. I see you. I see you.

MARTIN: Ron Davis and Lucia McBath are the parents of Jordan Davis. There's a new film about the trial of Mr. Davis's assailant. It's called "3 1/2 Bullets, Ten Minutes." It premieres on HBO on Monday. Mr. Davis, Ms. McBath, thank you so much for speaking with us.

MCBATH: Thank you so much for having us. We appreciate you.

DAVIS: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.