|Trayvon Martin, age 17|
The jury is still out on this outrageous shooting of a 17 year old Florida boy last month. Florida has a version of a "Shoot First" law that allows people to shoot someone if they feel threatened and then not get charged with murder. From the article:
At this point there are more questions than answers in the young man's death, but this much is known: Martin was packing little more than a bag of candy and a canned iced tea on the night he was killed."He had a gun, and Trayvon had Skittles," Benjamin Crump, a family attorney, told The Huffington Post this afternoon.Martin, 17, a high school junior who lived with his mother in Miami, was visiting his father and stepmother at their home in Sanford, a suburb of Orlando, on the weekend of Feb. 26. During halftime of the NBA All-Star Game, Martin's family said he walked to a nearby convenience store to get some candy for his younger brother. On his way back home, according to reports, he caught the attention of George Zimmerman, a 26-year-old college student and self-appointed captain of The Retreat at Twin Lakes neighborhood watch.Zimmerman, armed with a 9mm handgun, trailed the boy in his car. At some point, Zimmerman called 911, telling the operator there was a "suspicious person in the area," according to a police report acquired by HuffPost.Not long after the call, some sort of altercation ensued between Zimmerman and Martin. Then neighbors said they heard gunfire.
The Sanford Police arrived and found Martin lying face down on a patch of grass about 70 feet from his family's home, a pack of candy in one pocket and an iced tea in the other.
(...) According to reports, Zimmerman's gun was legal and he has claimed to authorities that he shot Martin in self-defense. Crump, the family's attorney, described Zimmerman as a "loose cannon" and questioned why any neighborhood watchman would be carrying a loaded gun. He has asked law enforcement authorities to turn over recordings of the call to 911 that Zimmerman made the night of the shooting, in the hopes that it might shed some light on the incident. Crump said if the recordings are not given to the family, he will file a public records lawsuit on their behalf.
Crump said the family is demanding that the Sanford Police arrest Zimmerman, and that the Seminole County State Attorney's Office review the case and press charges.
Let's hope the investigation turns up the truth of what happened on the night of the shooting. Kids should be able to walk on the streets of our communities without being shot by someone who claims they felt threatened."They say they are still investigating," Crump said. "I'm not sure what there is to investigate. What's suspicious about this kid? That's what the family is crying out, that our kid is like any other kid."
UPDATE (3/10/12): The shooter, Zimmerman, had a violent past, but was able to purchase and possess a gun anyways and "patrol" the neighborhood. The police hid his violent past from Trayvon's family.
Zimmerman, who is white, has not been charged in the death of Martin, who was black. Police in Sanford, where the shooting occurred, told Martin’s family that Zimmerman had a “squeaky-clean” record and that’s why they had not arrested him, according to Tracy Martin, the teen’s father.
Crump said public records show that Zimmerman was arrested in Orange County in 2005 on charges of resisting arrest with violence and battery on a law enforcement officer.
“They just lied to the family,” Crump said. “They just couldn’t see why [Zimmerman] would do anything wrong or be violent. But not only do you know the guy killed this kid, because he admitted to it, you knew that he has a propensity for violence because of his past record.”
The Orange County Clerk of Courts website shows a man named George Zimmerman, 28, was charged in July 2005 with resisting arrest with violence and battery on an officer. The charges appear to have been dropped.UPDATE (3/14/12): A good review of this case and the failure of Florida's dangerous "shoot first" bill that let the shooter get away: http://csgv3.blogspot.com/2012/03/these-aholes-always-get-away.html.
UPDATES (3/16/12): The family calls out for the immediate arrest of Zimmerman and the release of the 911 tape: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4mT4Ukkb66E&feature=player_embedded
A witness, Mary Cutcher, comes forward on video: "This was not self-defense." http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=08Rf4G0JOOk
The 911 call (or, at least, part of it): http://www.orlandosentinel.com/videogallery/68871920/News/George-Zimmerman-911-call-reporting-Trayvon-Martin
A good blog posting questioning Florida's "shoot first" law in light of this case: http://www.commongunsense.com/2012/03/whats-matter-with-florida.html
Another blog post, highlighting that Zimmerman was a habitual caller to 911 and hyper-vigilant regarding the safety of his neighborhood, but that this neighborhood had also had a rash of crimes in recent years:
Was Trayvon's only crime the color of his skin? Jonathan Capehart summarizes the issue of racism and some critical, unanswered questions about Trayvon's death:
So far, no charges have been filed against Zimmerman, who has moved out of his home due to death threats. According to the Orlando Sentinel, police “turned the case over to the State Attorney’s Office, saying they did not have evidence to justify George Zimmerman’s arrest on a charge of manslaughter.” Yet, Blow asked a series of questions in his column that should have at least warranted taking Zimmerman into custody to get answers.A statement on the case from the Brady Campaign Against Gun Violence: http://www.bradycampaign.org/media/press/view/1480/
Why did Zimmerman find Trayvon suspicious? Why did he pursue the boy when the 911 operator instructed him not to? Why did he get out of the car, and why did he take his gun when he did? How is it self-defense when you are the one in pursuit? Who initiated the altercation? Who cried for help? Did Trayvon’s body show evidence of a struggle? What moved Zimmerman to use lethal force?Lord knows when we’ll get those answers. Zimmerman is not only not in custody but, according to his father, the police advised him not to talk publicly. Trayvon, his grieving parents and shocked people everywhere deserve better than this.
The Department of Justice has just opened a case for this shooting. From the article:
The Department of Justice is launching an investigation into the shooting death of a black Florida teenager by a neighborhood watch captain last month.
In a statement released Monday, the DOJ said the investigation would be a joint operation between its Civil Rights Division, the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Middle District of Florida, and the FBI.
Josh Horowitz, Executive Director of the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, summarizes this case and the "shoot first" law that led up to the excuse used by the shooter.
Trayvon had been talking to a female friend while being followed by the shooter, and reported what was happening to her.
UPDATE (3/27/12): Click HERE for a timeline for developments in Trayvon's case.
UPDATE (3/28/12): HERE is a good recap of some critical questions that need to be asked about this case, and what steps need to be done to reverse the dangerous "shoot first" laws in Florida and elsewhere.
UPDATE (4/11/12): It has been reported that Zimmerman has finally been taken into custody and will likely be charged for the shooting: http://www.wtol.com/story/17386009/zimmerman-to-be-charged-in-trayvon-martin-death
UPDATE (4/27/12): A more nuanced look at the history of Zimmerman, the rash of burglaries in the months before and his role in "policing" them, and the days and moments before the shooting: http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/04/25/us-usa-florida-shooting-zimmerman-idUSBRE83O18H20120425