The Justice Department and the FBI finally decided to investigate the shooting death of Trayvon Martin. The decision came following public outrage over the police allowing George Zimmerman, the shooter, to go free. According MSNBC:
The Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division and the FBI announced on Monday that they have opened an investigation into the shooting in Florida of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, who was unarmed when he was killed.
“The department will conduct a thorough and independent review of all of the evidence and take appropriate action at the conclusion of the investigation,” the Justice Department said in a statement.
The public outrage might intensify now that the police released the 911 calls. According to the released 911 calls, Zimmerman thought Trayvon looked “suspicious”:
“This guy looks like he’s up to no good, or he’s on drugs or something. It’s raining and he’s just walking around, looking about,” Zimmerman told dispatchers, adding, “These [assholes]. They always get away.”
The dispatcher, hearing heavy breathing on the phone, asked Zimmerman: “Are you following him?”
“Yeah,” Zimmerman said.
“Okay, we don’t need you to do that,” the dispatcher responded.
But he did. From the other 911 calls, we can sort of hear Trayvon screaming for help and then loud gunshots and then nothing.
Zimmerman claims that he shot Trayvon in self-defense. Florida has a “Stand Your Ground” law. This law allows people who feel “in fear of great bodily injury” to kill the supposed attacker. According to a report on The Last Word, within months of the law passing more than a dozen cases used the law, and only a fraction of them included cases where the alleged assailant had a weapon.
Trayon had no weapons. All he had was ice tea and Skittles. The only thing that made him “dangerous” was that he was a black male.
If the blatant racism that seemed to prompt Zimmerman’s actions was not enough, his actions do not exactly meet the criteria of the law. Zimmerman was in his car, got out, and followed Trayvon before he shot him. Based on Zimmernan’s own 911 call, Trayvon was simply walking around “looking about.” As Ladd Everitt, spokesman for the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, stated:
No one could argue that Zimmerman could not have safely retreated and avoided this conflict, and I think that is the critical element here and why these laws are so dangerous. He does not have a duty to retreat in Florida.
Even worse, the police did not question Zimmerman’s claim of self-defense. They ran no background check on him, ran no drug or alcohol tests, or even revoke his gun license while the case is under investigation. When one listens to the 911 calls, it would appear that Zimmerman lied about not knowing Trayvon’s race. He also clearly ignores an order not to follow the boy.
A 17-year-old boy whose death has sparked national outrage fearfully told a friend over the phone moments before he was shot and killed that he was being followed, ABC News reported Tuesday.
“He said this man was watching him, so he put his hoodie on. He said he lost the man,” the female friend of Trayvon Martin, who was shot to death on Feb. 26 in Twin Lakes, Fla., told ABC. “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.”
With all these questions about what happened, why is Zimmerman not in jail? Why have the police not arrested him or demanded he come in for questioning? Here a man who not only had a habit of warning his neighbors about “suspicious” young black males who “looked like outsiders,” but also someone who called the the police 46 times in the last year. At the very least, the police should have revoked the man’s gun license and took his gun in as evidence.
It looks bad for the Sanford police. At best, they appear to be covering their own tails. At worst, they may be covering for Zimmerman. Either way, the police did themselves no favors:
Earlier Friday, Martin’s parents called on the FBI to take over the investigation, saying they no longer trusted the Sanford police department.
Sanford police Sgt. David Morgenstern said the department stands by its investigation but welcomes help from any outside agency. FBI agent David Couvertier said the agency has been in contact with Sanford police and is monitoring the case.
“We are committed to having somebody review this to see if we made a mistake,” said Sanford Mayor Jeff Triplett. “If we made missteps and there is something there, we will act accordingly.”
That seems unlikely. It is been almost a month since this tragedy occurred, and the police have not done much since then.
We will see what comes of the Justice Department and FBI investigation. At face value, this looks like a clear cut case of racial profiling. The real situation might be different, but that seems doubtful. It was announced this morning that the case would finally go before a grand jury. How sad and telling that it took almost a month and nationwide outrage to get Florida state to do the right thing.