On February 26, 2012, Trayvon Martin, a 17-year-old black teenager, was killed with a single gunshot wound to his chest, and a nation stands divided in the aftermath.
The fatal shooting that took place on that fateful evening and the verdict that followed on July 13, 2013, which resulted in the acquittal of 29-year-old Zimmerman who shot the teenager in self-defense as he claims and at point-blank range killing him almost instantaneously, has seen protests, vandalism, anger, hate, fear, and pain over the death of a teenager whose only crime on that rainy night was a stop at the 7-Eleven convenience store to stock up on Skittles candy and an Arizona brand fruit drink. He was walking home back to The Retreat at Twin Lakes where he was staying at the time, a 260-unit gated townhouse community in Sanford, Florida, when he encountered George Zimmerman, a neighbourhood watch volunteer, and was shot to death after an altercation.
Zimmerman calls the Sanford police non-emergency number saying, "We've had some break-ins in my neighbourhood and there's a real suspicious guy. This guy looks like he is up to no good or he is on drugs or something." He also reported that the person had his hand in his waistband and was walking around looking at homes. In the recording, he is also heard saying, "these a**holes, they always get away." Two minutes into the call, Zimmerman says, "he's running." At this point, the dispatcher advises him to stay put until officers arrive at the scene. He or she tells Zimmerman to stop following the suspect and he responds, "Okay."
When police arrive at the scene, Trayvon Martin is lying face down on the grass and is unresponsive. Zimmerman was bleeding from the nose and the back of his head. Autopsy reports reveal that Martin had one small abrasion on his left ring finger and traces of THC found in his system were so low that it would play no role in Martin's behaviour.
Wendy Dorival, Sanford Police Volunteer Program Coordinator, met Zimmerman at a community neighbourhood watch presentation and her precise instructions were, "If it's someone you don't recognize call us, we'll figure it out. Observe from a safe location." Why did Zimmerman choose to ignore what he was told to do? What do we know about Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman?
Baby-faced Trayvon Martin was a normal 17-year-old teenager from a divorced family. At the time of the shooting, he was living at The Retreat with his father's fiancee and was on his way home from a snack run when he encountered Zimmerman. He had been suspended from school 3 times for tardiness and truancy and he was in possession of a marijuana pipe and an empty bag containing marijuana residue. Trayvon had no criminal charges filed against him and no juvenile record at the time of the shooting.
George Zimmerman was a 29-year-old neighbourhood watchman who was charged with assaulting a police officer and resisting arrest at the age of 21. Charges were dropped after Zimmerman entered a pre-trial diversion program. In 2005, his ex-fiancee filed a restraining order for domestic violence. During initial bond hearing, the judge called the incidents 'somewhat mild' and rejected the claim that Zimmerman was violent or a threat to the community.
Since the verdict, passions have been stirred on both sides. Jessie Jackson and Al Sharpton, two very outspoken members of the black community, have been labeled as 'race hustlers' and have been accused of 'inflaming racial passions' and stirring up the 'mob mentality.' Geraldo Riviera, host of Fox News Channel, even went so far as to claim that 'gangsta-style clothing' was partly responsible for Trayvon Martin's death. His exact words were, "I am urging the parents of black and Latino youngsters particularly to not let their children go out wearing hoodies."
A country is held hostage by the killing of an innocent young black male whose only crime on that evening, if you can call it that, was to do a snack run as would any teenager, black, white, or Hispanic. One life was lost and another has been acquitted of any wrongdoing and a nation stands divided on the rights and wrongs of the verdict. The truth of the matter is, a family has lost their son and Zimmerman has been found not guilty of any wrongdoing. What really happened on that night when George Zimmerman approached Trayvon? We have heard Zimmerman's version all too often and we have heard some eye-witness accounts but the one other person who really knew what took place on that night is dead and his voice has been forever silenced. Seems unfair doesn't it but then again, we live in an unfair world as this case has shown. Would the verdict have been different if the roles had been reversed? What do you think?