Yesterday afternoon Sanford Police Chief Bill Lee, Jr. stunned the family of Trayvon Martin with the following statement:
“In this case Mr. Zimmerman has made the statement of self-defense,” Lee said. “Until we can establish probable cause to dispute that, we don’t have the grounds to arrest him.”
Trayvon, a 17-year-old junior at Miami’s Michael Krop Senior High School, was shot and killed by George Zimmerman two weeks ago. Zimmerman, the Neighborhood Watch captain for the gated condominium complex where Trayvon was visiting his father and soon-to-be stepmother, had followed the teen as he was walking back from a local convenience store at 7:00 in the evening. After deciding that Trayvon was “suspicious”, Zimmerman called the Sanford Police on their non-emergency number to report it. Allegedly he was told to keep his distance from Trayvon, and that police were on their way.
For some unknown reason, Zimmerman left his car, carrying his black Kel Tek 9mm semi-automatic pistol concealed (he has a permit to do so), and confronted Trayvon. Details of what occurred next, according to Zimmerman, have not been released. Zimmerman’s condition when police arrived to find Trayvon dead on the ground suggests that he confronted the teen and attempted to stop him from returning to his family [residents of the complex have started to come forward with information on complaints filed with the police and the homeowners association regarding Zimmerman's intrusive and "aggressive tactics"]. Zimmerman had a bloody nose, grass clippings and moisture on his back and a minor laceration to the back of his head. Obviously, Trayvon punched him in the nose and knocked him down… and then Zimmerman shot him in the chest.
The Sanford police turned over the findings of their investigation to the Seminole-Brevard State Attorney’s Office for review Monday. It will be up to the state’s attorney to decide if the case should go before a grand jury, which could decide to indict George Zimmerman if they decide that there is sufficient evidence to disprove the claim of self defense (it is actually called “justifiable use of deadly force” in the Florida Statutes).
Civil rights leaders, including members of the NAACP and the Rev Al Sharpton, are preparing to back the Martin family in their call for justice.
Watch for the followup article “Justifiable Use of Deadly Force in Florida”, an analysis of the Florida Statues applicable to this case.