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Sunday, February 25, 2024 | Back issues
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Protest Builds in Trayvon Martin Case

SANFORD, Fla. (CN) - A police chief faces calls to step down for failing to prosecute the man who allegedly shot and killed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin last month, while the boy's family has taken to the courts for justice.

Ben Jealous, president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, called for the resignation of Sanford Police Chief Bill Lee at a rally Tuesday night. He said the Department of Justice, which has already launched a civil investigation, should take over the prosecution.

"I stand here as a son, a father and uncle who is tired of being scared for our boys," Jealous said. "I'm tired of telling our young boys how they can't dress, where they can't go and how they can't behave."

On Feb. 26, 2012, 17-year-old Martin was walking from the store to his father's home in Sanford, holding a bag of Skittles and a soft drink, when the captain of the neighborhood watch spotted him.

Authorities have recently released the 911 call placed by George Zimmerman in which he describes Martin as "suspicious," saying the black male was "looking at him" and "running."

The dispatcher told Zimmerman not to follow Martin, but Zimmerman pursued the boy nevertheless, shot him and claimed self-defense.

Before this week, Sanford police refused to make the 911 call public. Martin's parents, Tracy Martin and Sybrina Fulton, called the Police Chief Lee's actions a violation of the Florida Public Records Act. They filed suit to have the calls released on March 9.

Zimmerman, 28, has not been arrested or charged, sparking public outcry, several petitions, community meetings, media coverage and now an FBI investigation into the possible hate crime.

The Rev. Al Sharpton announced on his MSNBC program that he will travel to Florida on Thursday, March 22, to stand with Martin's family at another rally for justice.

The Seminole County Grand Jury will be called into session to hear the case Tuesday, April 10, state attorney Norm Wolfinger announced Tuesday.

"I share the desire of the family and community to accurately collect and evaluate all the facts surrounding the tragic death of Trayvon Martin," Wolfinger said in a statement. "The public is entitled to no less than a thorough, deliberate and just review of the facts. We intend to honor that commitment."

In addition to Zimmerman's 911 call, Sanford police released seven calls from neighbors who heard Martin's scream.

Zimmerman has reportedly called the nonemergency line at least 42 times to report one or two "suspicious" black males.

At one point in his call about Martin, he mutters "fucking coons." This is something the Sanford Police Department admits they missed in deciding not to press charges, according to ABC News.

Aside from withholding the calls, the police department has also been accused of sending a narcotics investigator to the scene instead of a homicide detective, failing to administer a drug and alcohol test to Zimmerman that night, and not reaching out to Martin's girlfriend despite the fact that the pair were speaking on their cellphones minutes before the shooting.

Legal experts have said that prosecuting Zimmerman will be complicated by "Stand Your Ground," a 2005 Florida law that says a citizen does not have to retreat before using deadly force against an attacker.

There is no evidence yet, however, to establish whether Martin was an attacker or merely a teenage boy going to watch the NBA All-Star game at his father's house.

Benjamin Crump, the lawyer for Martin's parents, says phone records show Martin was on the phone all day with his girlfriend, completely contradicting Zimmerman's claim that he was suspicious and up to no good.

"The family does not trust the Sanford Police Department at all," Crump said at a Tuesday press conference. "His mama and his father don't understand why this killer hasn't been arrested. It has almost been one month."

"Arrest George Zimmerman for the murder of Trayvon Martin in cold blood today," said Crump, a Tallahassee attorney with Parks & Crump.

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