Why are investigators ignoring Trayvon Martin’s side of the story?
Martin was the 17-year-old black teen who was shot and killed on Feb. 26 by George Zimmerman, the 28-year-old neighborhood watch volunteer in Sanford, a suburb of Orlando, Fla. Zimmerman, who is a white Hispanic, claims the shooting was self-defense; three weeks later, he hasn’t been arrested or charged with any crime.
The case was already gaining national attention, but interest exploded following the release of the 911 tapes on March 16. Terrified neighbors called in reports of someone screaming for help and gunshots. In one of the tapes, bloodcurdling screams can be heard in the background followed by what sounds like a gunshot. Lawyers for Martin’s family say the screams are Martin’s and that the tapes are evidence of a “murder.” They say Zimmerman should be arrested immediately and are calling on the FBI to begin an investigation. The Rev. Al Sharpton plans to visit the grief-stricken family this week.
At the heart of this case is Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law. Passed in 2005, the law allows people to use deadly force to protect themselves if they believe they’re in imminent danger. When Zimmerman told police it was self-defense, that was good enough for them. But what if Martin were trying to stand his ground against a threatening stranger? Why did police automatically assume that Martin was the aggressor?
Here’s what we know: On Feb. 26, Martin was watching the NBA All-Star game while he and his father were visiting his father’s fiancée, who lived in a gated townhouse community. During halftime, Martin went to a 7-Eleven to buy snacks. While walking back, Martin caught the attention of Zimmerman, who was in an SUV. From the 911 tapes, we learn that Zimmerman called to report “a really suspicious guy” who looked like “he was up to no good.” What exactly was this really suspicious guy doing? “… He’s just walking around looking about.”