Photograph of Trayvon Martin from Facebook
UPDATE: The federal government announced late Monday night that it will investigate the death of Trayvon Martin, a 17-year-old African American who was shot while unarmed in Florida last month by a volunteer neighborhood watch captain.
The Associated Press that the Justice Department will meet with authorities, officials and civil rights leaders in the community this week and will "conduct a thorough and independent review of all the evidence and take appropriate action at the conclusion of the investigation."
But the shooter, George Zimmerman, who was not arrested, may be protected under changes in 2005 to Florida's self-defense law. The current law simply affirms the right of those in the state "to stand his or her ground and meet force with force, including deadly force," without requiring an attempt to avoid the danger first. As the AP explains, unless there's evidence to contradict Zimmerman's (and the Stanford police's) claim that he felt threatened and acted in self defense, a case against Zimmerman's word will be difficult in the state.
ABC News reports that Martin was on the phone with a friend moments before the confrontation that killed him. According to the teenage girl on the other end of the line, Martin noticed Zimmerman following him, and tried to get away from him before being cornered. The girl, who has asked not to be publicly identified, described the last moments of the call:
"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."
Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch captain, was also on the phone just before the attack. He called 911 to report Martin as a suspicious person. ABC News notes that the Stanford police have since released logs of non-emergency calls placed just before the attack as well.
Saturday, March 17: The question of what really happened to Trayvon Martin, the unarmed 17-year-old African-American who was killed in Florida last month, is about to get lots more attention. The 911 tapes released late Friday have raised some very uncomfortable questions for the Sanford, Fla., police department, which did not arrest the 28-year-old neighborhood watch captain who shot Martin Feb. 26.
The calls, which were posted online by the Orlando Sentinel, show, at minimum, a disturbing series of events. The volunteer, George Zimmerman, called 911 to say there have been a series of break-ins in his neighborhood and he spotted a suspicious-looking guy. “It’s raining,” he said. “He’s just walking around.” He added: “These assholes always get away.” At one point in the call it seems clear Zimmerman is walking and the dispatcher asks him whether he’s following the teen. “Yeah,” answers Zimmerman. “OK, you don’t need to do that,” the dispatcher says.
“How can you claim self-defense and you are the aggressor?” Tracy Martin, Trayvon Martin's father, told the Associated Press.
Moments later, several people in the neighborhood called 911 saying two men were fighting. In one of the most dramatic recordings, a woman calls 911 to report fighting. Screaming can be heard in the background, then there’s a shot and the screaming stops.
The question now is who was screaming for help. Martin’s family insists it was the teenager, the police say it was Zimmerman and they have no evidence to contradict the 28-year-old’s statement that he acted in self-defense, reports the Orlando Sentinel. Martin’s family has asked the FBI to take over the investigation, saying they no longer trust the Sanford police department.
Darryl E. Ownes, an Orlando Sentinel columnist, explains that the case has raised a lot of anger because it “has revived suspicion that a black life doesn’t have all that much value.”