THE MURDER OF 17-YEAR OLD TRAYVON MARTIN

JUSTICE FOR TRAYVON MARTIN

Trayvon Martin, a 17-year-old African American high school student from Miami, was visiting his father in a gated Sanford community, a Suburbs of Orlando.  Trayvon, his dad and brother were watching the NBA All-Star game and at halftime, Trayvon walked to the nearby 7-Eleven to get some Skittles and Arizona Iced Tea.  On his return trip, he drew the attention of 28-year old Martin Zimmerman who was armed, patrolling the neighborhood in a sport-utility vehicle and who called 911 to report “a real suspicious guy.”  Zimmerman is white but identifies himself as Hispanic.  “This guy looks like he’s up to no good or he’s on drugs or something,” Zimmerman told the Police Dispatcher. “It’s raining, and he’s just walking around looking about.”  “Now he’s coming towards me. He’s got his hand in his waistband.  And he’s a black male…Something’s wrong with him. Yup, he’s coming to check me out. He’s got something in his hands. I don’t know what his deal is…These assholes, they always get away.  After discussing his location with the dispatcher, Zimmerman said, “Shit he’s running,” and the following sounds suggested that he left his vehicle to run after Trayvon.  “Are you following him?” the dispatcher asked. Zimmerman replied: “Yep.” “Okay, we don’t need you to do that,” the dispatcher warned.  Several minutes later, according to other callers to 911 in the neighborhood, Zimmerman and Trayvon got into an altercation on the ground and Trayvon can be heard screaming for help.  A single shot rang out and Trayvon Martin is dead, his only weapons–a bag of Skittles and a can of tea.

Zimmerman told police that he acted in self-defense.  He was licensed to carry a concealed weapon, and police initially told Trayvon’s father that they hadn’t charged Zimmerman because he was a criminal justice student with a “squeaky clean” record.  However, in 2005, Zimmerman was arrested for “resisting arrest with violence and battery on a law enforcement officer” but those charges were subsequently dropped.  Police records reveal that Zimmerman had called 911 forty-six times between January 1, 2012, and the day he shot Trayvon.  Florida guidelines for licensed gun owners state, “A license to carry a concealed weapon does not make you a free-lance policeman.”  I don’t believe Zimmerman cared about the guidelines because he was on a mission and believed the law was on his side. Could it be that Zimmerman was a vigilante with “a false sense of authority” in search of young African American men in his neighborhood to execute?

Zimmerman’s self-defense claim relies on “Stand Your Ground” legislation signed into law in 2005 by former Republican Governor Jeb Bush.  This law allows Florida residents to use deadly force against a threat without attempting to back down from the situation. (More stringent self-defense laws state that gun owners have “a duty to retreat” before resorting to killing.)  Seventeen states have passed “Stand Your Ground” laws which opponents call a “license to kill” or a “shoot first” law.  This law has been unpopular with law enforcement officers in Florida since it makes it much more difficult to charge shooters with a crime.

In recent years, the Sanford Police Department has engaged in a series of public blunders.  For example, in 2006, two private security guards—the son of a Sanford police officer and a volunteer for the department—killed an African American teen with a single gunshot in the back.  The guards were released without charges. Perhaps the most significant incident occurred in late 2010: Justin Collison, the son of a Sanford Police Lieutenant, sucker-punched a homeless African American male outside a bar and officers on the scene released Collison without charges.  He eventually surrendered after a video of the incident appeared online.  The police chief at the time was ultimately forced to retire.  It should also be noted that Anthony Raimondo, the Sanford patrol Sergeant in charge on the night of Collison’s assault, was also the first supervisor on the scene of Trayvon Martin’s shooting death.

When Trayvon was executed by Zimmerman, all he had were Skittles, iced tea, and a cell phone, authorities told the L.A. Times.  The phone has been mentioned in multiple reports and people are asking what happened to the cell phone.  Why did the police on the scene not use it to identify Trayvon or contact his next of kin? “Trayvon’s body was bagged and taken to the morgue where he was tagged as a John Doe,” writes African American affairs blogger Sandra Rose.  No one contacted Trayvon’s family even though police had Trayvon’s cell.  Trayvon’s death was not reported to his parents until 3-days later.

ABC News reported that a 16-year-old girl was on the phone with Trayvon Martin just before he was killed, and she said that Trayvon was evading the pursuer. She told her story to the network:  “He said this man was watching him, so he put his hoodie on. He said he lost the man, Trayvon’s friend said. “I asked Trayvon to run, and he said he was going to walk fast. I told him to run but he said he was not going to run.” 

Eventually he would run, said the girl, thinking that he’d managed to escape. But suddenly the strange man was back, apparently cornering Trayvon.

“Trayvon said, ‘What, are you following me for,’ and the man said, ‘What are you doing here.’ Next thing I hear is somebody pushing, and somebody pushed Trayvon because the head set just fell. I called him again and he didn’t answer the phone.”  Trayvon’s phone logs show the conversation occurred five minutes before police first arrived on scene.

The public outrage against the senseless killing of an unarmed African American teen has been intense.  The local state Attorney’s Office, which has the option of pursuing a case against Zimmerman, said that it had received more than 100,000 emails demanding prosecution that the office’s servers shut down.  The Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice has opened an investigation on this case.  In addition, Republican Governor Rick Scott sent a letter to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement requesting the Department to provide any assistance necessary to fully investigate this matter.

Zimmerman told police that it was him crying for help and that Trayvon started the fight. He claimed self-defense and was not charged.  Witnesses told ABC News a fistfight broke out and, at one point, Zimmerman, who outweighed Trayvon by more than 100 pounds, was on the ground and that Trayvon was on top.  Austin Brown, 13, was walking his dog during the time of the altercation and saw both men on the ground but separated. Brown, along with several other residents, heard someone cry for help just before hearing a gunshot.  Police arrived 60 seconds later and Trayvon was quickly pronounced dead. According to the police, Zimmerman, was found bleeding from the nose and the back of the head, standing over Martin. An officer at the scene overheard Zimmerman saying, “I was yelling for someone to help me but no one would help me.” Witnesses told ABC News they heard Zimmerman say that “It was self-defense,” and place the gun on the ground.  After the 911 tapes were released, Trayvon’s mother recognized the voice yelling as her son, not Zimmerman.

On February 26, 2012, Trayvon Martin, a 17 year old African American high-school junior, was visiting his father in a gated community in Sanford Florida, making his way home from the 7-11 with a bag of Skittles and a can of iced tea when Zimmerman saw him.  Zimmerman called a non-emergency dispatch number to report that Trayvon looked intoxicated, followed him, and then minutes later after an altercation, shot him.  To me, the facts do not support Zimmerman’s claim of self-defense and investigators should ask Zimmerman the following questions:  Did you observe Mr. Martin committing a crime?  Why did you leave the safety of your SUV and not wait for the police to arrive?  Why did you follow Mr. Martin after the Police Dispatcher told you not to?

It is difficult to understand how a teen weighing approximately 140 pounds armed only with a bag of Skittles and a can of Arizona Tea become a threat to a 200+ pound man holding a loaded semi-automatic weapon who engaged him without provocation.  Zimmerman’s actions, his lie about yelling for help, and his obsession with wanting to play “police officer,” seem to suggest that he deliberately and with pre-meditation pursued Trayvon Martin with the intent on murdering him, but that’s just my take.

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