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Tampa dad biking to Tallahassee to call for ‘stand your ground’ law changes following son’s murder

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TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – A Tampa father who lost his son to gun violence is biking from Tampa to Tallahassee this week to urge lawmakers to revise the state’s “stand your ground” law. 

Family and friends of Jayquon Johnson gathered on Monday at his final resting place, Rest Haven Memorial Park in Tampa, ahead of the bike ride.  

Johnson, a Brandon High School sophomore and basketball star was gunned down inside a Valrico home on New Year’s Day in 2017 in what police believe was a drug deal gone wrong.  

Police say Johnson’s shooter, also a teenager at the time, claimed he acted in self-defense under the “stand your ground” law. Ultimately, he was never charged with Johnson’s murder but faced several drug charges. 

“The ‘stand your ground’ law is totally unbalanced,” said Johnny Johnson, Jayquon’s father.

The law was altered in 2017 to place the burden of proof on prosecutors. Johnson is now advocating for a more transparent understanding of the revised statute. 

“Our security and life has been at stake with the senseless gun shooting going on. So just come up with new ideas and look at laws on books to see if we can tweak them or turn them into something that is fair to everyone,” said Johnson. 

Johnson and several of his relatives are riding their  bicycles to the State Capitol to deliver their message to lawmakers.  

“Something has to be done to combat this here. What affected my son was the burden of proof which was changed in 2017. So just looking at that and bringing it back to the floor, to change it back to what it was initially,” said Johnson. 

Johnson is not alone in his fight for justice.  Two Tampa mothers who lost their sons to gun violence were also there on Monday to support the grieving father.  

“I was in the kitchen that night when I heard thee three shots…boom, boom, boom. I didn’t know my son had got shot until I heard the phone ring,” said Simuel Cotten. 

Cotton’s son, 43-year-old Larry Cotten Jr., was gunned down on North Nebraska Avenue in December of 2017. Monday would have been his 46th birthday. 

“He was everything to us. He don’t deserve to be out here. He is 46 years old today. He is supposed to be celebrating his birthday, yet he is gone.  I don’t have no answers behind this,” said Cotton. 

Then there is Ayesha Jones. Her son, 18- year-old Antwan Jenrette, is buried a few yards from both Cotton and Johnson.  

“We are all connected,” said Jones. 

Jenrette’s young life was taken away when he was shot and killed along the intersection of North 36th Street and East Shadowlawn Avenue in June of 2017.  

“He was respectful, nice and kind. I don’t want this to be someone else’s nightmare. I don’t want none of my friends, no mother to have to come here and visit their child. It’s the worse feeling ever,” said Jones.  

Jones and Cotton tell 8 On Your Side no arrests have been made in either of the fatal shootings.

The three parents’ communities gathered to show their support ahead of Johnson’s trek to Tallahassee. Johnson tells 8 On Your Side their support is all the fuel he needs for his journey ahead. 

“There is a lot at stake here. These parents are going through a lot of tragedy not even knowing who the killer of their kids are. So it is bigger than this. We have to do something,” Johnson said. “We need more investigators, more funds for law enforcement to do their jobs. We have to do something to get these people off the street as well. I will never stop fighting until I feel that it is appropriate that all laws are equal for everyone.”

If you have any information about the cases mentioned in this story, please call Tampa police at 813-231-6130 or contact Crime Stoppers of Tampa Bay. 

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