On February 26, 2012, a 17-year-old African-American named Trayvon Martin was shot and killed in Sanford, Florida. The shooter was George Zimmerman, a 28-year-old man. Zimmerman admits killing Martin, but claims he was acting in self-defense. Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law, passed in 2005, allows people to use deadly force if they believe they’re in imminent danger. Three weeks after Martin’s death, no arrests have been made and Zimmerman remains free.
FBI tells ABC News they are monitoring the Trayvon Martin investigation and have been in touch with local authorities. Late Monday, March 20, after a letter from the NAACP, the United States Department of Justice, the FBI and the U.S. Attorney announced they were launching “a thorough and independent review” of the shooting death of Trayvon Martin. The Florida state attorney has sent the Trayvon Martin case to a grand jury. The Seminole County grand jury will be called to session on Tuesday, April 10.
Here’s everything you need to know about the case:
1. Zimmerman called the police to report Martin’s “suspicious” behavior, which he described as “just walking around looking about.” Zimmerman was in his car when he saw Martin walking on the street. He called the police and said: “There’s a real suspicious guy. This guy looks like he’s up to no good, on drugs or something. It’s raining and he’s just walking around looking about… These a**holes always get away” [Orlando Sentinel]
2. Zimmerman pursued Martin against the explicit instructions of the police dispatcher:
Dispatcher: “Are you following him?”
Dispatcher: “OK, we don’t need you to do that.”
3. Prior to the release of the 911 tapes, Zimmerman’s father released a statement claiming “[a]t no time did George follow or confront Mr. Martin.” [Sun Sentinel]
4. Zimmerman was carrying a a Kel Tel 9 millimeter handgun. Martin was carrying a bag of Skittles and a can of iced tea. [ABC News]
6. Martin’s English teacher described him as “as an A and B student who majored in cheerfulness.” [Orlando Sentinel]
7. Martin had no criminal record. [New York Times]
8. Zimmerman “was charged in July 2005 with resisting arrest with violence and battery on an officer. The charges appear to have been dropped.” [Huffington Post]
9. Zimmerman called the police 46 times since Jan. 1, 2011. [Miami Herald]
10. According to neighbors, Zimmerman was “fixated on crime and focused on young, black males.” [Miami Herald]
11. Zimmerman “had been the subject of complaints by neighbors in his gated community for aggressive tactics” [Huffington Post]
12. A police officer “corrected” a key witness. “The officer told the witness, a long-time teacher, it was Zimmerman who cried for help, said the witness. ABC News has spoken to the teacher and she confirmed that the officer corrected her when she said she heard the teenager shout for help.” [ABC News]
13. Three witnesses say they heard a boy cry for help before a shot was fired. “Three witnesses contacted by The Miami Herald say they saw or heard the moments before and after the Miami Gardens teenager’s killing. All three said they heard the last howl for help from a despondent boy.” [Miami Herald]
14. The officer in charge of the crime scene also received criticism in 2010 when he initially failed to arrest a lieutenant’s son who was videotaped attacking a homeless black man. [New York Times]
15. The police did not test Zimmerman for drugs or alcohol. A law enforcement expert told ABC that Zimmerman sounds intoxicated on the 911 tapes. Drug and alcohol testing is “standard procedure in most homicide investigations.” [ABC News]
16. In a cell phone call moments before his death, Martin told a teenage girl that he was “hounded by a strange man on a cellphone who ran after him, cornered him and confronted him.” “‘He said this man was watching him, so he put his hoodie on. He said he lost the man,’ Martin’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, cornering Martin. ‘Trayvon said, ‘What, are you following me for,’ and the man said, ‘What are you doing here.’” [ABC News]
17. Zimmerman told the police “he had stepped out of his truck to check the name of the street he was on when Trayvon attacked him from behind as he walked back to his truck.” “He said he feared for his life and fired the semiautomatic handgun he was licensed to carry because he feared for his life.” [Miami Herald]
18. Zimmerman was not a member of a registered Neighborhood Watch group. Zimmerman also violated basic Neighborhood Watch guidelines by carrying a weapon. [ABC News]
19. Sanford police chief Bill Lee planned to wrap up the case last Monday without bringing any charges, because, he said, “there is no evidence to dispute the shooter’s claim of self-defense,” which is a sufficient claim under the “Stand Your Ground” law. [Miami Herald]
20. In the first five years “Stand Your Ground” was in effect, justifiable homicides tripled, and the law was a factor in at least 93 cases involving 65 deaths. An investigation of cases from the law’s passage in 2005 to 2010 found that charges were dropped or dismissed for 57 people, and 7 others were acquitted. [Tampa Bay Times]
A petition created by Trayvon’s parents to investigate his killing has been signed by over 500,000 people.
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