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Thursday, July 18, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Heat Turned Up for Arrest of Trayvon’s Killer

SANFORD, Fla. (CN) - Civil rights leaders and elected officials Monday night asked the Sanford City Commission to order the arrest of the man who shot to death 17-year-old Trayvon Martin one month ago.

Trayvon's parents, Sybrina Fulton and Tracy Martin, presented commissioners with a petition signed by more than two million people who want Trayvon's killer, George Zimmerman arrested.

Zimmerman shot Trayvon on Feb. 26, as the teenager walked from a convenience store back to his father's home with a bag of candy and an iced tea.

According to 911 tapes, Zimmerman said Trayvon looked like he was "up to no good," "on drugs or something" and was "just walking around looking about."

Zimmerman followed Trayvon and confronted him after a police dispatcher told him not to do so, according to a transcript of the call.

"We do not need a trial and jury to make an arrest," that Rev. Al Sharpton said at a Monday rally. "You have a man saying he is pursuing an unarmed man on tape. You have probable cause to make an arrest."

Zimmerman, a 28-year-old self-appointed Neighborhood Watch captain, claimed he shot Martin in self defense.

Zimmerman's attorney Craig Sonner said Trayvon initiated the confrontation and beat Zimmerman so badly he suffered a broken nose and injuries to the back of his head. Sonner said there are grass stains on Zimmerman's shirt that show there was a scuffle.

But Trayvon's parents' attorney Benjamin Crum criticized police who came to the scene for allowing Zimmerman to return home in the clothes he was wearing and destroying evidence.

"For the Sanford Police Department to think they were going to sweep the death of another young minority under the rug, it's an atrocity," Martin said at the Monday rally.

The Sanford Police Department has come under fire for its handling of the shooting. Sanford Police Chief Bill Lee temporarily resigned last week amid public criticism.

Trayvon's parents sued Lee on March 9 for his refusal to release several 911 calls from the shooting. The recordings have been released.

Critics have asked why police did not question witnesses, Trayvon's young step-brother, or the girlfriend he spoke with just moments before he was killed, and why the police sent a narcotics detective to test Trayvon for drugs and alcohol, but did not do the same for Zimmerman.

"We've been here before," the Rev. Jesse Jackson said at the rally. "With the death of Emmett Till, his killer was acquitted. It seems like we've been here before. Police chose not to do their duty. They didn't see his death as a crime."

Police Capt. Darren Scott has been named interim chief until an investigation is done to determine whether Lee will be fired.

A new prosecutor, Angela Corey, has been assigned the case, and the FBI and the U.S. Department of Justice have taken over the investigation.

"We want to believe in the system," the family's attorney Benjamin Crump said. "We want to believe that it works for everybody."

The case has spotlighted Florida's so-called Stand Your Ground Law, which allows a person to use deadly force in self-defense if he has a reasonable belief of a threat. The law expanded the "right" to use deadly force from inside one's home, to public space. The Tampa Tribune reported that "justifiable homicides" in Florida have tripled since the law took effect in 2005.

Some Floridians have said the law should not apply in this case since police told Zimmerman not to follow Trayvon.

Outrage over Trayvon's death has sparked rallies across the nation. Sharpton, Jackson, Martin Luther King III, and Congresswoman Corrine Brown are among those who have spoken in Sanford.

A "Million Hoodies" march was held in New York City last week to support Trayvon, who was wearing a hoodie on the rainy day he was killed.

Sharpton urged the crowd at Thursday's rally to hold peaceful protests and be careful of their behavior.

"We've held peaceful protests," Sharpton said. "The only violence that occurred was when Zimmerman shot Trayvon a month ago."

He added: "Sanford is a beautiful city, but it's risking going down in history as the Birmingham of the 21st century. Arrest him [Zimmerman] and redeem Sanford right now. Zimmerman is not worth the history of this city. Do the right thing."

The shooting was not Zimmerman's first run-in with the law. In 2005 his former fiancee filed an injunction after a domestic violence claim. Veronica Zuazo claimed that Zimmerman took her cell phone and when she asked for it back he picked her up and it became a pushing match.

Zimmerman also filed an injunction against her, claiming that she was the one who became violent with him and left marks on his skin. Both injunctions were granted.

Zimmerman was charged in 2006 with battery and resisting an officer without violence. The felony charge was dropped to a misdemeanor after he took a pretrial diversion program.

A grand jury will hear the case in Sanford on Tuesday, April 10, to determine if Zimmerman should be indicted for shooting Trayvon.

"We're not asking for an eye for an eye, we're asking for justice," Trayvon's father said.

Trayvon's mother has filed paperwork to trademark the phrases "I Am Trayvon" and "Justice for Trayvon," to protect and use the phrases to help other families in similar situations, according to wire reports.

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