Monday, March 26, 2012

17-Yr-Old Black Shot: Perpetuating Fears of Ongoing Racial Injustice

It has only been a few weeks since 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, a Florida high school student who was shot and killed by George Zimmerman, a self-appointed neighborhood watch captain. Many are outraged that no charges have been filed yet against Zimmerman. It began on 26 February 2012, when Trayvon Martin was found shot and killed, in Sanford, Fla., a community north of Orlando. Several eyewitnesses report to police that they heard a scuffle, then a cry for help, and then a gunshot.

According to the Sanford police report, George Zimmerman, 28, is found armed with a handgun, standing over Martin. Zimmerman has a bloody nose and a wound in the back of his head. Martin is unresponsive and pronounced dead at the scene. He has no weapons on him, only a pack of Skittles and a bottle of iced tea. Zimmerman tells police he killed Martin in self defense. Taking him at his word, police do not arrest him, nor administer a drug or alcohol test. They also did not run a background check.

On 9 March 2012, Martin’s family demanded that police release the 911 tapes or make an arrest, but police refuse to comment at that time. On 12 March 2012, ABC News uncovered questionable police conduct in the investigation, including the alleged “correction” of at least one eyewitness’ account. After an outpouring of support for Martin, many calling for Zimmerman's head, spearheaded by the family’s petition entitled “Prosecute the killer of our son;” word spread quickly, with 250,000 signatures, and at one point signatures were pouring in at the rate of 10,000 an hour.

Once the case gained national attention, Sanford police department finally released the 911 tape (featured below) and were forced to admit to ABC News that investigators missed a possible “racist remark” by Zimmerman as he spoke to police dispatchers moments before the killing.

The 911 call displayed a bizarre, troubled sounding Zimmerman calling 911 to report a suspicious looking black kid wearing a “hoodie” and looking as if he is “up to no good.” Zimmerman was in his car and Martin was on foot. Zimmerman was staring at Martin and probably made him nervous, so Martin began staring back. Martin then walked closer to Zimmerman’s vehicle, no doubt trying to get a look at the man who was eyeing him.

The 911 operator explains to Zimmerman that an officer is on the way. Zimmerman then says, “These assholes, they always get away.” Zimmerman, an aspiring police officer, has just made a remark that can only mean that he has already assumed that Martin is a criminal, by using the words “these assholes,” or he was referring to “these assholes” as blacks; one can only assume which one he meant, but it was one of the two.

Then Martin began running away, as any 17-yr-old would probably have done if a stranger was stalking them from their car. It is here that Zimmerman says, “Fucking [expletive], he’s running away” (Believed to be “fucking coons,” the racial slur that was alluded to by police). Zimmerman then starts to follow/pursue Martin, clearly lowering the tone of his voice as he searches for him, as the sounds of wind slamming against the phone are heard. The 911 operator hears this as well and asks, “Are you following him?” Zimmerman replies “yea,” and the operator urges him not to. “Ok, we don’t need you to do that,” the operator says somewhat adamantly. Zimmerman says, “ok,” but clearly still follows Martin. Minutes later Zimmerman shot Martin in the chest and he died on the scene.

Aside from the fact that Zimmerman clearly took the law into his own hands and became a vigilante killer of an unarmed 17-yr-old half his size, police really dropped the ball here as did Seminole State Attorney, Norm Wolfinger. It is ludicrous for the Sanford police to say that they did not have probable cause to arrest George Zimmerman. Probable cause to arrest only requires that there be a possibility that a crime was committed based on known facts—and clearly when it comes to murder, police are normally much more stringent.

George Zimmerman should have been arrested and charged with second degree murder or manslaughter, and if he believes that it was self-defense he could raise that at the trial. In any event, Zimmerman remains in hiding and no charges have been filed against him as of yet. The Daily Beast reported that between Jan 1, 2011, and the night he shot Trayvon Martin, Zimmerman called 911 close to 50 times to report suspicious activity.

Today the New Black Panther Party for Self-Defense is calling for a militia of 5,000 black volunteers to help capture George Zimmerman. “George Zimmerman was not a police officer he was a community volunteer,” said Mikhail Muhammad, Southern Regional Director of the New Black Panther Party. The black political organization has begun posting flyers calling for Zimmerman’s capture “dead or alive” and is offering a reward of $10,000 to the person who captures him. The party not only blames Zimmerman for the black teen’s death, but is also attributing the responsibility to Sanford Police and Prosecutor Angela Corey. “It’s time for us as black men to take justice in our own hands,” said Muhammad just outside the neighborhood where Martin was gunned down. “You kill mine god-damn it I got to kill yours” said Muhammad.

Meanwhile, Dwayne Wade of the Miami Heat (NBA basketball team) wrote a tribute to Martin on his sneakers before a recent game. Wade said that his kids wear “hoodies”as well, and feared that something like this could easily happen to them, and he wanted to pay tribute to Martin and his family.

In a NY Daily News Poll, readers were asked if they believe Trayvon Martin would have been killed if he were white. Poll results from today show that 57% believe that if Trayvon were white the shooter wouldn’t have even bothered him, 22% think that the shooter wasn’t fixated on race, he was just trigger-happy, and 21% say they don’t know, but they believe that there is no denying that race played a factor in the shooting.

Part 2

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