The fatal shooting of Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman took place on February 26, 2012, in Sanford, Florida. Trayvon Martin was a 17-year-old African American boy who was unarmed; George Zimmerman is a 28-year-old biracial Hispanic American who, at the time of the shooting, was the community watch coordinator for the gated community where the shooting took place.
How Zimmerman killed Martin
While on a private errand, Zimmerman saw Trayvon Benjamin Martin walking inside the gated community. Martin was 6’0″ tall high school junior in the Miami area of south Florida, had turned 17 three weeks ago. Martin lived with his mother and older brother in Miami Gardens, Florida. On the day he was shot, he was visiting his father and his father’s fiancée at her townhome in The Retreat at Twin Lakes in Sanford, Florida.
Zimmerman, probably due to being a bit of a stereotype-upholding racist, called the Sanford Police Department describing Martin’s appearance (ie: being a black person?) and behavior (walking through a community who are suspicious of racial stereotypes?) as suspicious.
- Zimmerman: This guy looks like he’s up to no good, or he’s on drugs or something. It’s raining and he’s just walking around, looking about.
- Dispatcher: OK, and this guy is he white, black, or Hispanic?
- Zimmerman: He looks black.
- Dispatcher: Did you see what he was wearing?
- Zimmerman: Yeah. A dark hoodie, like a grey hoodie, and either jeans or sweatpants and white tennis shoes. He’s [unintelligible], he was just staring…
- Dispatcher: OK, he’s just walking around the area…
- Zimmerman: …looking at all the houses.
- Dispatcher: OK…
- Zimmerman: Now he’s just staring at me.
- He further stated that Martin had his hand in his waistband, was holding something in his other hand (a phone). Zimmerman is then heard commenting “these assholes, they always get away” a clear indication that suspicion had quickly turned into full criminal judgement in Zimmerman’s mind.
Zimmerman, armed, then began following Martin around the darkening neighbourhood streets.
Meanwhile, Treyvon Martin was on the phone…
At the same time, Martin was talking on his cellphone to his girlfriend, according to her and confirmed by phone company records. Martin’s girlfriend said that he expressed concern about a strange man following him, and she advised him to run.
She says she heard Martin say “What are you following me for?” followed by a man’s voice responding “What are you doing here?”
She said that she heard the sound of pushing and that Martin’s headset suddenly went silent, leading her to believe that he had been pushed.
She attempted to call him back immediately, but was unable to reach him.
Shortly afterwards, the confrontation ended with Zimmerman fatally shooting Martin once in the chest at close range.
Strengthening George Zimmerman’s claim that he was attacked, police acknowledged that he was bleeding from the nose and had a wound on the back of his head.
Police initially believed the shooting was in self defence, then changed their minds, then changed their minds again, and after many eyewitness interviews and surveillance footage, decided to charge Zimmerman with second-degree murder on April 11th, after allegations and evidence mounted that Zimmerman was motivated by racism, obvious racial profiling, and no clear great threat to his life which justified fatally shooting the boy.
However, Zimmerman’s former lawyer Craig Sonner stated that Zimmerman is not a racist, and that he had mentored black youths in the past. Joe Oliver, a former television news reporter who is acquainted with Zimmerman, noted “I’m a black male and all that I know is that George has never given me any reason whatsoever to believe he has anything against people of color.”
Being followed by a Neighbourhood Watch Volunteer
Sanford Police volunteer program coordinator Wendy Dorival told The Miami Herald she met George Zimmerman in September 2011 at a community neighborhood watch presentation. Dorival stated she gave a warning in regard to vigilante behavior at that meeting:
“I said, ‘If it’s someone you don’t recognize, call us. We’ll figure it out. Observe from a safe location.’ There’s even a slide about not being vigilante police. I don’t know how many more times I can repeat it.”
But Zimmerman took his role seriously. From 2004 to 2012, he made 46 calls to 911, due to the apparent lack of private safety in the area: crimes committed at The Retreat in the year prior to Martin’s death included eight burglaries, nine thefts and one shooting.
Opinion and Gun Laws
To many, this was a tragedy that should have been avoided. It seems as though if both men were left out of each other’s lives, no one would have died and it’s quite likely no burglary would have been committed. Racial profiling is certainly one of the main factors that caused the needless confrontation that resulted in needless death.
Zimmerman had a right to carry a gun, but did he have a right to shoot it?
Self-defense laws in the United States, particularly regarding justifiable homicide, vary by state. In Florida, they have a “Stand Your Ground” provision, under which a person does not have to retreat before using deadly force if he reasonably believes it is necessary to do so to prevent death or great bodily harm.
The law does not say that a person has a right to confront another.
When Zimmerman began following Martin through the darkening streets, he became the suspicious character.
Suddenly Trayvon Martin becomes the one who has the right to use self-defense.
Of course the boy ran in fear to “lose” Zimmerman.
International Media Attention
The story has gone viral and received tonnes of television, radio and celebrity commentary. One celebrity of note is Bill Cosby, who stated the bigger question is what Zimmerman was doing with a gun, and who taught him how to behave with it.
Cosby said during the interview that he once owned a gun but no longer does. He says there is a need to get guns off the streets, and that people should be taught to use every possible alternative before shooting someone. The “Stand Your Ground” law is a very powerful law to envoke: if the court sides with Zimmerman, not only will he be forever immune from facing criminal charges for shooting the teenager — even if new evidence or witnesses surface — he will also be immune to being sued for civil damages by Martin’s family for wrongfully causing his death.
This is because successfully arguing “Stand Your Ground” awards even more protection to the defendant than any acquitted murderer.
The trial continues.
Sources and Related articles
- Bill Cosby says Trayvon Martin case is about gun ownership, not race (csmonitor.com)
- Wikipedia: Shooting of Trayvon Martin
- Trayvon Martin’s family to attend George Zimmerman’s hearing (clickorlando.com)
- Stand Your Ground, America (johnmalcolm.me)
- Bill Cosby on Trayvon Martin Case: Blames Gun Ownership (thehollywoodgossip.com)
- The Truth About ‘Stand Your Ground’ (newser.com)
- Jennifer Carroll: Can Florida’s lieutenant gov lead fight to reform ‘Stand Your Ground’? (thegrio.com)
- Zimmerman’s lawyer confident judge will leave case – CNN (cnn.com)
- Florida to Review ‘Stand Your Ground’ (myfoxny.com)
- Florida to Review ‘Stand Your Ground’ (myfoxboston.com)
- George Zimmerman’s Injuries Finally Make Mainstream Reporting (thewesternexperience.com)