Outrage is the best way to describe the feelings of African-Americans and anyone who has a sense that something went really wrong when a man named George Zimmerman; a Neighborhood Watch captain shot and killed young 17-year-old Trayvon Martin. It’s clear by the audio tapes of Mr. Zimmerman’s calls to 911 that his suspicions were founded on that Trayvon was black and looked suspicious.
Trayvon Martin went to a local store to get a canned ice tea and some skittles and was heading home to his father’s house, who he was visiting at the time. Mr. Zimmerman’s account of Trayvon’s actions raise questions how he came to shooting and killing the young teen. Here is a 911 recording of Mr. Zimmerman’s call:
“This guy looks like he’s up to no good, or he’s on drugs or something. He’s just staring, looking at all the houses. Now he’s coming toward me. He’s got his hand in his waistband. Something’s wrong with him.”
From this first statement, as a neighborhood watch captain, it might be understandable that Mr. Zimmerman had probable cause to call 911, but his following statement is what raises concerns that the watch captain called 911 and pursued Trayvon because he was black and Zimmerman had a problem with him being black and in his neighborhood:
“He’s coming to check me out. He’s got something in his hands. I don’t know what his deal is. Can we get an officer over here?” Then he continues, “These a–holes always get away,”.
These last four words leads me to ask this question; “Why did the 17-year-old Trayvon fit into a category of “a–holes” to Mr. Zimmerman?
Then Mr. Zimmerman says “S- -t, he’s running.” The 911 dispatcher asked him “Are you following him?” Mr. Zimmerman responded “Yes”. The dispatcher then says “We don’t need you to do that.”
It was at this moment that Mr. Zimmerman took things into his own hands and continued to pursue Trayvon Martin and it was at this point that Mr. Zimmerman became responsible for his own actions, after it was expressed by the 911 operator that he needn’t follow the suspect.
There were several calls from residents who witnessed what was transpiring between Mr. Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin. Trayvon Martin was clearly pleading for help and for his life. He had been pursued by someone he didn’t know and he had no idea of what his intentions were and it cost him his life.
Most recently, Trayvon’s girlfriend stepped forward and reported to the police through a lawyer that she was talking to the 17-year-old on a cellphone at the time he was being pursued by Zimmerman. Her statement was:
“He said this man was watching him, so he put his hoodie on. He said he lost the man, 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.”
At first, the young man said he wasn’t going to run but finally did. He thought he’d lost him but Zimmerman tracked him down. The rest of the story was pieced together by several calls from residents in the area. It well looks as though Trayvon Martin was stocked by the man.
The girlfriend also listened during the first few moments of the confrontation between Trayvon and Zimmerman:
“Trayvon said, ‘What, are you following me for,’ and the man said, ‘What are you doing here.’ Next thing I hear is somebody pushing, and somebody pushed Trayvon because the head set just fell. I called him again and he didn’t answer the phone.”
Mr. Zimmerman has not been arrested or charged with any crime.
What this exposes here is a flawed Florida law called Stand Your Ground law. The law allows a person to use deadly force against another person when he or she has a reasonable belief that the use of deadly force is necessary to prevent serious bodily injury or death. It also provides immunity from criminal prosecution and civil action for the use of such force. Deadly force can be used even if a person has other means of protecting themselves such as calling the police or retreating from the situation.
What this law does is allow someone like George Zimmerman, who is obviously a want-to-be cop to take things into their own hands and kill someone because they suspect them of being up to no good. All they need to do is claim self-defense and this frees them from legal responsibility of murdering an innocent person.
Trayvon had no weapon but yet he was shot, even as he pleaded for help. The law allows someone to shoot someone and then claim self-defense for no other reason than they felt threatened.
There are several cases of the law being used where there are serious questions to its protection of otherwise criminal vigilantism and encouragement to rogue citizens taking law into their own hands and killing an innocent person, as maybe the case here with George Zimmerman’s shooting of Trayvon Martin.
This law is another product of the National Rifle Association whose doctrine is that if all law-biding citizens have guns, then we won’t have to worry about gun violence. This overlooks the fact that sometimes guns fall into the wrong hands, of citizens who don’t have good judgment of when the use of force is necessary, or when children gain access to guns and accidental death occurs.
I’m all for citizens having a right to a gun as long as there are safeguards put into place to assure that those with guns are screened for psychiatric problems and they’re trained to use and store them properly. I don’t believe that is expecting too much but the NRA obviously does.
It’s a sad story concerning this young man; Trayvon Martin, especially for his family who grieves for his loss. Hopefully because of the national attention it has brought to this Stand Your Ground law that lawmakers in Florida will look at its repeal or at least amend the law to correct any possibility of its misuse.
Today, 4.22.14 the Supreme Court upheld Michigan's ban on using race as a factor in college admissions.