Date: February 26, 2012
Officer: George Zimmerman (neighborhood watch coordinator)
Charged: Second-degree murder, Acquitted of all charges
Trayvon Martin was in a gated townhouse community in Sanford, Florida, on the rainy night of February 26, 2012. He was there with his father, visiting a family friend who lived in the neighborhood. Martin walked to the nearby 7-Eleven to get some snacks while talking to his girlfriend on the phone. On the way back to the house, the rain became heavier, so he pulled up his hood and sought cover from the rain at one of the complex’s buildings. Neighborhood watch patrolman George Zimmerman was driving around the neighborhood in his SUV that night when he called 911 to report “a real suspicious guy.” He said that Martin “looks like he’s up to no good or he’s on drugs or something,” adding that Martin had his hands in his waistband and coming towards him. He also said, “And he’s a black male…Something’s wrong with him…These assholes, they always get away.” In the 57 days before the shooting, Zimmerman called police 46 times, mostly focusing on black men on his neighborhood patrol. He got out of the car and started to follow Martin on foot, which the dispatcher advised him not to do. Martin sensed that Zimmerman was following him, so he told his girlfriend, and she advised him to run. His girlfriend reports to hearing the phrases “why are you following me” and “what are you doing here” through the phone. Multiple 911 calls from the neighborhood reported seeing two people wrestling on the ground. Cries can be heard in the background of the call, then a gunshot, silencing the cries. One witness reported to have walked to her back porch and asked Zimmerman three times what happened as he nervously walked around the body. Zimmerman shot Martin in the chest, killing Martin before ambulance arrived. The items Martin had in his hoodie were Skittles and Arizona Iced Tea. He was 17 years old.
George Zimmerman was questioned by police at the scene, and he stated he shot Martin in self-defense, referencing the Stand Your Ground Law. This law allows armed individuals who believe they are in danger to use deadly force. Florida is one of thirty states with the law. Sanford Police Department procedure following shootings is that the shooter is tested for alcohol and drugs in their system, which the police didn’t do for Zimmerman. The Martin Family questioned police as to why they hadn’t arrested Zimmerman, to which they answered that he had a “squeaky clean” record, was a licensed gun owner, and was studying criminal justice. The Martin Family Attorney said that if the department wasn’t going to arrest Zimmerman, he would file a report against the Sanford Police Department citing witness tampering, obstruction of justice, and witness intimidation. Zimmerman was arrested six weeks after the shooting and charged with second degree murder. The judge set bond at $150,000 and Zimmerman posted bail three days later. Less than two months later, the judge revoked Zimmerman’s bond after the prosecution reported that Zimmerman and his wife lied about their finances when bond was first set. The judge then set bond at $1 million.The trial was composed of six female jurors and lasted less than three weeks. The jury had three choices, which were to find Zimmerman guilty of second-degree murder, guilty of manslaughter, or not guilty. The jury acquitted Zimmerman on all charges.
The Martin Family started the Trayvon Martin Foundation in 2012 to provide families who have lost children to gun violence with emotional and financial support. To find out more, click here.
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