Florence Police make arrest in connection to downtown assault, release more about investigation

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FLORENCE, Ala. - Florence Police have made an arrest in connection to an assault that happened downtown two weeks ago.

Florence Police Chief Ron Tyler said Isiah Thornton, 28, was arrested and charged with assault third degree and criminal mischief third degree Tuesday.

Investigators said 20 to 30 juveniles assaulted Kevin Dawes, a Lauderdale County man and his 14-year-old son at Wilson Park on Friday, June 5.  The victim’s wife, Juli Dawes, witnessed the attack and said the group “was using slurs of race” while tasing her husband and beating him.

The victim has a fractured eye socket and multiple taser burns. His son sustained minor injuries.

Florence Police Chief Ron Tyler held a news conference on Thursday, June 17 to release more details about the case.  Tyler said investigators met with the Dawes family several times as the investigation developed, and kept them well-informed.

"During the course of the investigation, the Dawes family identified Isiah Thornton, a 28-year-old black male, as the primary aggressor during the assault.  After extensive discussions with the District Attorney's office, it was determined the appropriate criminal charge was Assault 3rd and Criminal Mischief 3rd,both misdemeanor offenses," police said in a statement.

Police said investigators coordinated a meeting between Kevin Dawes and Florence Municipal Court.  During this meeting with a magistrate, it was determined that probable cause for an arrest existed. A warrant for Thornton was issued, who was then arrested and charged.

The investigation is still active, and anyone with information is urged to call Florence Police at (256) 760-6555.

Social Media Discussion & Calls for a 'Hate Crime'

This case has been highly discussed on social media, with many calling for police to charge the offender with a "felony hate crime."

"It needs to be made clear that a stand-alone charge of a "hate crime" does not exist in the State of Alabama," Chief Tyler said in a statement. "The existing "hate crime" provision, Title 13A-5-13, is a sentencing enhancement to be applied by the judge at the time of sentencing, in the event there is a guilty verdict. However, in order for the sentencing enhancement to occur, it must be shown beyond a reasonable doubt that the crime was motivated by the victim's actual or perceived race."

"This is not a decision for the police or our investigator to make," Chief Tyler added. "What [the community is] asking for, to charge the offender with a 'felony hate crime,' is not an option under Alabama law."

Isiah Thornton is charged with Assault 3rd and Criminal Mischief 3rd.  Police explained those charges:

  • The applicable provision of the crime of Assault 3rd reads "with intent to cause physical injury to another person, he causes physical injury to any person"
  • The applicable provision o Criminal Mischief 3rd reads "with intent to damage property, and having no right to do so or any reasonable grounds to believe that he or she has such a right, he or she inflicts damages to property in an amount not exceeding $500

Timing of attack & First Fridays

Chief Tyler also made a point to stress the attack on Kevin Dawes and his son didn't happen at the downtown First Fridays event.  He said First Fridays ended at 8 p.m. and the 911 call about the attack came in at 9:42 p.m. on Friday, June 5.

Organizers of First Fridays also wanted to stress the event is safe.

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