A 19-year-old man who stabbed another teenager to death in a gang-related attack in Bristol has been jailed for nine years after being found guilty of manslaughter.
Kairon Sawyers, of Whitchurch, was handed the sentence by The Recorder of Bristol Judge Peter Blair QC following a trial that lasted three weeks at Bristol Crown Court.
A jury dismissed Sawyers’ claim that he was acting in self-defence when he stabbed and killed Dontae Davis, 18, in Hayes Close, Lawrence Hill, Bristol on October 14 last year.
He was acquitted of murder.
Sentencing, HHJ Blair said that Bristol had ‘had enough’ of knife crime and that a selfie that surfaced of Sawyer posing with a knife on social media was ‘unacceptable’.
He added: “You took your knife, which was a high risk action that was likely to result in serious injury and high degree of danger, although you had no intent to kill.
“The aggravating factors are your previous conviction in 2019 as well as the disposal of the knife and clothing in this incident, to avoid being caught. The sentence is meant to punish you but also deter others in knife crime.”
17-year-old involved in attack will spend 12 months in detention
The court heard that around 6.20pm on October 14 2021, Dontae and two friends aged 15 and 17 came across Sawyers who was riding his bike near the Lawrence Hill roundabout.
An altercation that quickly became ‘hostile’ followed, with the four teenagers running down an alleyway before the three older boys emerged on Clarence Road armed with large knives, the court heard.
CCTV footage showed Sawyers stabbing Dontae in the chest, before Sawyers himself is stabbed by the 17-year-old boy.
The 17-year-old, who cannot be named due to his age, admitted wounding with intent at an earlier hearing.
He was handed a 24-month Detention and Training Order and will spend 12 months in detention, then another year under supervision with restrictions in place.
CCTV shows that Sawyers cycled away, returning briefly to collect his dropped phone. He was arrested after seeking medical treatment. His knife, phone and top were never found.
Bandana burning video sought to provoke ‘ongoing rivalry’ between gangs
What detectives did find was an image of Sawyers posing with a large knife on his social media and the month after Dontae’s death, he also appeared in a music video posted on social media.
The song’s title and lyrics “Splash and Brag” mean “stab and boast”. The video, shown in court, sees a group burn a green bandana similar to one in Dontae’s possession and an emblem of his group, the 1-6s.
Senior investigating officer Detective Inspector Roger Doxsey of the Major Crime Investigation Team said: “Music can be a valuable way for people to deal with their experiences and express themselves.
“However I believe it’s clear from the lyrics and actions that this particular music video seeks to provoke ongoing rivalry between these groups.
“Sawyers told the court he was trying to change his life for the better, joining a programme which aimed to help him move away from violence, but on October 14 he was carrying a large knife and was prepared to use it. The jury understood that he intended real harm.
“Dontae and the 17-year-old were also carrying knives, and the fight they engaged in had terrible consequences.
“The truth is that carrying a knife does not protect you. Carrying a knife leads to serious harm and heartbreak.”
Mother: ‘Part of me wants Sawyers to suffer as I do’
Dontae’s mother Niquae said that writing a victim personal statement was an almost impossible task because of the emotional and psychological upset she has suffered as a result of her son’s death.
She said: “Since that date, the 14th October 2021, I have gone through every range of emotion that you could possibly imagine and at times I have felt so low and numb in every respect that I could barely function at all.
She described Dontae as a ‘special, loving and caring’ son who helped raise his younger siblings, showed empathy beyond his years and overcame adversity with his speech, behavioural and language difficulties.
Directly addressing Kairon Sawyers, she said: “You have not only killed Dontae, you have destroyed and broken the lives of all the people involved with him, none more so than his family.
“A part of me wants Kairon Sawyers to suffer inside emotionally like I do every day, for his heart to break like mine has, for his soul and spirit to feel as hurt as mine, to feel the emptiness and void that cannot be filled and for him to be surrounded by an unimaginable loss and never ending grief.
“This world needs more good than evil. We do not live in a lawless society and there has to be a day of reckoning for those who do. I can only hope and pray that he will take the time to reflect on what he has done, the pain he has caused and come out on the other side a changed person who can add value to society, rather than to take it away.”