On Sunday, February 26, a 17 year old teenager named Trayvon Martin, from Miami, was visiting his father and his soon-to-be-stepmom at her condo in Sanford, Florida, which is 20 miles north of Orlando. Around 7:30 pm he took a break from watching NBA All-Star game coverage to walk 10 minutes to a convenience store to buy snacks for himself and his 13-year-old brother, Chad. On his way home he was seen and reported to 911 as a suspicious person by the Neighborhood Watch captain for the gated community, The Retreat at Twin Lakes. For some unknown reason, the watch captain then left his car, confronted the unarmed teenager, and shot him to death with a single bullet to the chest. The young man was dead by the time police arrived in answer to the original 911 call. All he had on him were “A can of Arizona ice tea in his jacket pocket and Skittles in his front pocket for his brother Chad.” according to the family’s attorney, Ben Crump.
Tracy Martin, the father, will speak publicly for the first time at a news conference today, along with his fiancé Brandy Green and his attorney. He is expected to call for the release of the original 911 call tapes, and the arrest of the watch captain, George Zimmerman (25), who was simply questioned and released after the shooting.
Crump said Wednesday that the family was concerned that police might decide to consider the shooting as self defense, and that police have ignored the family’s request for a copy of the original 911 call, which they think will shed light on the incident. He is prepared to file a public records lawsuit Thursday if the family doesn’t get the tapes.
“If the 911 protocol across the country held to form here, they told him not to get involved.” said Ryan Julison, a spokesman for the family.
That really is one of the two crucial questions in this tragedy. The first one is ‘why was he considered suspicious?’ The second is ‘why did Zimmerman leave his car to confront him?’
Unfortunately, having lived in Tampa for seven years, I can make a fairly informed guess at the answers to both questions. This incident occurred in a gated community in central Florida. The vast majority of gated communities are almost exclusively Caucasian enclaves. There were several incidents when I lived down there where police and rent-a-cops accosted black citizens who had a perfect right to be where they were, just because it was a “white” neighborhood. Trayvon was black, which in Zimmerman’s mind, made him suspicious. Nothing has been said about what Trayvon was wearing, but the first photo I found of him online, from his Facebook page, was of him in a hoodie… which would be perceived as him being a gangsta punk.
As for why Zimmerman got out of his car? He’s a 25-year-old white man in a position of authority, with his courage backed up by a gun. There is no way a 25-year-old white Florida man is NOT going to get out of his car to challenge a black teenager on “his” turf. Again, nothing has been released about what transpired when he challenged Trayvon, but my guess is he got all chesty and demanding, and Trayvon, being a black teen from Miami, probably gave him attitude back. If not, he may have tried to simply walk past the looney tune white dude, and got shot when Zimmerman felt threatened.
That is the kicker to this whole sordid mess. If Zimmerman claims he felt threatened by Trayvon’s actions after being challenged, and there are no witnesses to the contrary, it probably will be ruled justifiable homicide (self defense). That he willfully put himself in a position to be threatened is probably not a criminal offense. The best the Martin family may be able to get is a verdict in their favor in an unlawful death suit. Not nearly as satisfying as having the killer of their boy in prison [where he would have a very short life expectancy as the white killer of a black boy], but a substantial monetary award is going to hurt, a lot. He might not be able to afford that gated community anymore.