White Sheets Surround Florida Teen's Slaying
In March 1799 authorities in North Carolina found no fault in a teen fatally shooting a black man after confronting that man about his being on a public road.
In February 2012 authorities in Florida found no fault in a man fatally shooting a black teen after confronting that teen about his being on a public road.
How authorities in Sanford, Florida have handled the fatal February 26th shooting of 17-year-old black teen Trayvon Martin by a town watch operative is, however, sparking outrage nationwide, including among many whites.
The slaying also raises the issue of race-tainted inequities that have roiled through American society since before the formal inception of the United States.
Police in Sanford, outside Orlando, quickly accepted the claim of George Zimmerman, 28, that he shot Martin in self-defense while he was allegedly losing a fight with the younger, physically smaller teen. (Zimmerman is a three inches taller and is nearly 100-pounds heavier than his victim, the young Martin).
The record, pried lose from reluctant police, shows that Zimmerman called 911 telling police he saw Martin acting suspiciously. Police, who initially refused to release the 911 tapes, told Zimmerman not to confront Martin, but he rejected the police orders. A scuffle ensued where Zimmerman shot Martin with a 9mm pistol he was carrying.
Zimmerman, initially described as having no police record, is a self-appointed town watch captain and wannabe policeman with a checkered past. Neighbors have reportedly complained about his aggressive behaviors. He had called police 46 times in the past year alon in his town watch capacity. In 2005 police charged Zimmerman with assaulting an officer, but later dropped charges.
Federal authorities are now investigating the fatal shooting of Martin by Zimmerman, whom Sanford police cleared without doing any background check (it turns out he was once arrested for assault on a policeman) and without conducting tests to see if Zimmerman was under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time of the shooting. Some people who have heard the 911 tapes contend he was under the influence of some substance, based on the sound of his voice on those recordings.
Martin, when killed by Zimmerman, was walking back to a relative’s home in the integrated neighborhood after buying a bag of candy and a can of ice tea from a local convenience store. Martin, a well-respected high school student, had no criminal record.
The shooting of Martin, however, raises an issue as contentious as racism – the propriety of Florida’s controversial 2005 “Stand Your Ground” law which turned self-defense law on its head by removing the duty to retreat before using deadly force against an alleged attacker.
That law additionally allows the use of deadly force against unarmed persons.
In May 2010 a Florida man successfully cited the “Stand Your Ground” law following his shooting of another man during a fight at a beach where he shot a man in the back of the head as his victim was getting out of the water.