Support SF BayView
Donate or Subscribe to SF Bay View
Follow Us Twitter Facebook

Trayvon Martin: Justice Department to investigate fatal shooting of unarmed Florida teen

March 19, 2012

Emergency Scream-out (cuz speaking just isn’t enuf) for Trayvon Martin and Ramarley Graham Monday, March 26, 12-1 p.m., Hall of Injustice, 850 Bryant St., San Francisco, in solidarity with families and advocates in Florida who will be holding a rally for Trayvon Martin on the same day; speakers in S.F. include Denika Chapman, Mesha Irizarry, Lisa ‘Tiny’ Garcia, the welfareQUEENs and Poetas POBREs de POOR Magazine, which is sponsoring the event with the Idriss Stelley Foundation

This hour-long show, broadcast March 20 on 1,024 TV and radio stations around the country, is a special on Trayvon Martin. The portion devoted to his story begins 12 minutes in.

by Trymaine Lee

Trayvon Martin was only 17 when he was murdered by George Zimmerman, a self-appointed Neighborhood Watch captain with a racist mission. “Zimmerman went door to door asking residents to be on the lookout, specifically referring to young Black men who appeared to be outsiders,” according to the Miami Herald. On the police tape, he complained just before killing Trayvon, “These a--holes always get away.”
The U.S. Department of Justice and the FBI have opened an investigation into the “facts and circumstances” surrounding the killing of Trayvon Martin, the unarmed teenager shot and killed last month by a Neighborhood Watch captain in an Orlando suburb.

The department will “conduct a thorough and independent review of all evidence and take appropriate action at the conclusion of the investigation,” according to a statement late Monday.

The announcement comes as the drumbeat around the case continues to grow, becoming national news and shining a brighter media spotlight on the city of Sanford, where the killing occurred, and its police department, which handled the initial investigation that so far has failed to bring charges.

Martin, 17, was shot to death on Feb. 26 by George Zimmerman, a Neighborhood Watch captain who told police he fired in self-defense. Zimmerman confronted the teen after calling 911 and reporting Martin as a “suspicious person.” Though a dispatcher told Zimmerman not to follow the teen, Zimmerman confronted him nevertheless, police said. Martin died from a gunshot wound to the chest.

Police questioned Zimmerman and released him without charges. Zimmerman was licensed to carry a gun and police said they found no evidence to contradict his self-defense claim.

Attorneys for Martin’s family have said the family has no faith in the the Sanford police investigation and have called for an independent investigation.

The Justice Department statement said it also would provide assistance to Florida officials. The Seminole County State Attorney’s Office recently took over the case from local police. The state attorney will soon decide whether to bring charges against Zimmerman.

With all federal civil rights crimes, the government must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that a person acted intentionally and with the specific intent to do something the law forbids – the highest level of intent in criminal law, the Justice Department statement said.

Earlier on Monday, Florida Gov. Rick Scott sent a letter to Florida Department of Law Enforcement Commissioner Gerald Bailey, calling on the agency to “fully investigate” Martin’s death.

“The circumstances surrounding the death of Trayvon Martin have caused significant concerns within the Sanford community and the state,’’ Scott wrote to Bailey. “I understand an investigation was initiated by the Sanford Police Department and referred to the 18th Judicial Circuit State Attorney’s Office. I believe it is appropriate that the Florida Department of Law Enforcement provide any assistance necessary to fully investigate this matter.”

A MILLION HOODIES MARCH for TRAYVON MARTIN: ABC News has just learned from a teenage friend of Trayvon who was talking with him on the phone just before he was murdered. "He said this man was watching him, so he put his hoodie on," she said. Anita Wills and Ingrid Martin of the Oscar Grant Committee in Oakland are inviting you to join the MILLION HOODIE MARCH: 1) WEAR YOUR HOODIE ON WEDNESDAY, March 21, and upload a pic to Twitter, Facebook or Instagram with the hashtag #millionhoodies; and 2) JOIN US IN YOUR HOODIE at Bradley Manning Plaza (Embarcadero at Market, SF) at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday to rally and march to United Nations Plaza at 6 p.m. because Wednesday is International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (Gather in Oakland at 14th & Broadway BART to ride together to Embarcadero: 4:30, 5:00 and 5:30 p.m.); and 3) SIGN THE CHANGE.ORG PETITION started by Trayvon's parents; currently at 530,000 signatures, we can move the needle to 1 million this week! A Black person in a hoodie isn't automatically "suspicious." Let's put an end to racial profiling!
Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, said in a statement Monday afternoon that he was “outraged by the way in which this case has been handled by the Sanford Police Department in Florida.”

“Those who are meant to protect us and our children have blatantly turned their backs on fairness and justice,” Cleaver, D-Mo., said. “We urge the Department of Justice to immediately and thoroughly investigate the shooting death of Trayvon Martin as a hate crime. This case compromises the integrity of our legal system and sets a horrific precedent of vigilante justice.”

The White House also commented on the Martin case during a press briefing. “The White House is aware of the incident,” press secretary Jay Carney said. He added: “We’re not going to wade into a local law enforcement matter.”

Rep. Corrine Brown, D-Fla., called for Justice Department intervention, saying she doesn’t “have the same kind of confidence in the Florida Department of Law Enforcement or the governor’s office or the State Attorney’s Office.”

She added: “I’m not law enforcement, but I absolutely think [Zimmerman] should have been arrested.”

Trayvon Martin’s family calls for arrest of man who police say confessed to shooting

Trayvon Martin, an unarmed African-American teenager, was shot and killed in a gated community in Florida late last month by a white Neighborhood Watch captain, according to police. But the watch captain, George Zimmerman – a 28-year-old college student who has admitted to police that he shot the young man – still walks free. And Martin’s family is pleading for answers and demanding justice.

At this point there are more questions than answers in the young man’s death, but this much is known: Martin was packing little more than a bag of candy and a canned iced tea on the night he was killed.

“He had a gun, and Trayvon had Skittles,” Benjamin Crump, a family attorney, told The Huffington Post.

Martin, 17, a high school junior who lived with his mother in Miami, was visiting his father and stepmother at their home in Sanford, a suburb of Orlando, on the weekend of Feb. 26. During halftime of the NBA All-Star Game, Martin’s family said he walked to a nearby convenience store to get some candy for his younger brother. On his way back home, according to reports, he caught the attention of George Zimmerman, a self-appointed captain of The Retreat at Twin Lakes Neighborhood Watch.

Zimmerman, armed with a 9mm handgun, trailed the boy in his car. At some point, Zimmerman called 911, telling the operator there was a “suspicious person in the area,” according to a police report acquired by HuffPost.

Zimmerman told the police that Martin noticed that he was being followed and asked, “What’s your problem?”

That’s when a physical confrontation ensued, said Chief Bill Lee of the Sanford Police Department. And moments later, neighbors said they heard gunfire. Martin was shot.

“He (Zimmerman) felt the need to defend himself,” Lee said. “I don’t think it was his intent to go and shoot somebody” that night.

The Sanford police arrived and found Martin lying face down on a patch of grass about 70 feet from his family’s home, a pack of candy in one pocket and an iced tea in the other.

“What happened between him being confronted, up to the point where he got shot, nobody knows but him and that guy,” Tracy Martin, the boy’s father, told HuffPost. “I’m looking for justice for my family. I want answers but I don’t have any to give – not for his mother, his brothers or sisters. We don’t have nothing, but we want answers.”

Crump, the family’s attorney, described Zimmerman as a “loose cannon” and questioned why any Neighborhood Watchman would be carrying a loaded gun. At his request, law enforcement authorities have turned over recordings of the call to 911 that Zimmerman made the night of the shooting.

The tapes have been posted online by the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting.

Crump said the self-defense claims don’t make sense in the context of this shooting. Martin, unarmed, was 140 pounds, nearly 100 pounds less than Zimmerman, he said.

Crump said the family is demanding that the Sanford police arrest Zimmerman, and that the Seminole County State Attorney’s Office review the case and press charges. That review has begun.

“They say they are still investigating,” Crump said. “I’m not sure what there is to investigate. What’s suspicious about this kid? That’s what the family is crying out, that our kid is like any other kid.”

Meanwhile, a heartbroken father struggles to deal with the weight of his son’s death. He tells the story of his son’s heroics at age 9, when he pulled his father from a burning kitchen, and of his love of sports and horseback riding and his dreams of attending college and becoming an aviation mechanic.

“Right now we’re all on pins and needles,” Tracy Martin said. “When I asked the police why there’s been no arrest, they told me they respected [Zimmerman’s] background, that he studied criminal justice for four years and that he was squeaky clean.”

He continued: “My question to them was, did they run my child’s background check? They said yes. I asked them what they came up with, and they said nothing. So I asked if Zimmerman having a clean record, did that give him the right to shoot and kill an unarmed kid?”

It has since been learned that Zimmerman was arrested in 2005 on charges of resisting arrest. The charges in that case were dropped, according to county clerk records.

In the “Committee News” section of last month’s issue of the gated community’s newsletter, “Retreat Reflections,” the Neighborhood Watch Committee asked for additional volunteers and warned: “Please keep your eyes open” and “If you see something suspicious or out of place, report it!”

For more information, it said, call George Zimmerman.

“It is certainly and absolutely a tragedy, especially for the Martin family,” Chief Lee said. “No one expects their teenage son to go the store and never come back.”

Lee is “comfortable that his investigators were fair and thorough,” according to the Miami Herald. “From the start,” however, the Herald reports, “Trayvon’s family accused Sanford police of molding the investigation to fit Zimmerman’s account. Several witnesses said they heard cries that sounded like a boy wailing – howling silenced by the crack of gunfire – and were shocked to hear police later portray the cries as Zimmerman’s. One witness said police ignored her repeated phone calls.”

ABC News reports that an “officer corrected a witness after she told him that she heard the teen cry for help. The officer told the witness, a long-time teacher, it was Zimmerman who cried for help, said the witness.”

“There has been tension between the Black community and the police for a long time,” said Turner Clayton, the president of the local NAACP. “It’s hard to swallow,” he said. “The police department claimed that they didn’t have enough probable cause, and that all the evidence seems to point to self defense. Of course, we don’t believe that for a minute.”

Trymaine Lee, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, was a reporter for the New York Times, where he covered the Harlem beat, and is now a senior reporter covering national stories that impact the Black community at the Huffington Post, where his stories on Trayvon Martin first appeared, here, here and here. He can be reached at Bay View staff contributed to this story.

Editors note: Events in solidarity with Trayvon Martin across the country are listed at


video platformvideo managementvideo solutionsvideo player

13 thoughts on “Trayvon Martin: Justice Department to investigate fatal shooting of unarmed Florida teen

  1. Malaika H Kambon

    20 March 2012

    It’s fascinating to me how an armed, 200lb + white male in a car, who initiated the stalking of a 17 yr old unarmed Afrikan youth would end up in a situation where he (the stalker) would allege that he was ‘screaming for help…’

    Let’s put on our thinking caps here, boys and girls

    …who is the most dangerous person in this scenario: the hulking white guy-stalker, armed w/a loaded 9mm handgun and the ability to protect himself by keep his (alleged to be frightened) ass in his car – or the unarmed child w/nothing but candy in his hands and tea in his pockets; and nothing else on his mind but getting back home to an athletic contest on TV?

    Does anyone know what a baited trap looks like? i.e., turn the local equivalent of a racist nut case loose to start some nastiness to see what will happen, figuring that this li’l ole town won’t cause any excitement if an Afrikan or two turns up missing… but then shit pretty much backfires, and now everyone’s woke and no one (fbi, doj, and whoever else comes to play) wants oscar grant rebellions on their door step so they act to save zimmerman from having to run (a la mehserle) or do any time, then act to damn near cannonize him into sainthood on the spot- so that he can be released to kill again…

    question: what’s up w/ the local po po chief? how many times has this scenario played out and no one’s done anything about it – or everyone’s been too scared to say anything? how did this so called gated community get their very own armed vigilante as ‘security?’No guard training, no guard card? How is Zimmerman licensed to carry a fire arm to guard multiple person’s in a gated community w/ nothing but some classes on criminal justice? (no degree even) And why stalk an unarmed Afrikan youth who wasn’t creeping around the gated community Zimmerman was alleged to have been guarding? how close is the gated ommunity from the store; and how close was Trayvon to it when he was assassinated? Is Zimmerman in the habit of creeping around stalking any/everyone Afrikan who leaves said convenience store? Is Zimmerman’s story going to morph into him alleging that he thought Trayvon had a gun? And please tell me what is or can be considered to be suspicious about going to the store? Have the employees at the store corroborated Zimmerman’s story of Trayvon behaving suspiciously – or is that going to creep into the mix later? Is Zimmerman officially employed to guard anything? And if so, by whom? And does Zimmerman live in the same gated community he allegedly guards? What’s his employment background in security? – (not including his neighborhood watching hobby)

    Personally and politically – I think that the FBI and the DOJ are moving faster to cover this up before it explodes. The case of Oscar Grant III caught the police & BART flat footed because they expected Mehserle to get away w/o any questions being raised – but the Oakland community was on top of it from the gate, and the police had to fight to free their pet killer cop. Mehsele’s attorney Michael Rain played a waiting game as well; changing venues and making sure there were long time periods between court appearances, then making the gun issue magically disappear from the case. Everyone knows where Oakland, CA. is. Who’s ever heard of Sanford, Florida except local people in the area?

    Feds run in, squash as much publicity as possible, cover Zimmerman’s tracks, down play any hint of wrong doing, leave – no publicity, no foul, no arrest, no murder – just a ‘righteous shoot’ by a scared vigilante. Business (killer cops on the loose) goes back to being as usual, feds go home, case closed.

    Are the feds still investigating Oscar Grant’s murder? I’d bet not…

    Just because the alleged super cops are in town, doesn’t mean this is going to get right. I mean, since when do we depend on the freaking fbi and the state department for making shit right, when they are the main causative factors; i.e. part of the problem?

    Killer cops are a global pandemic. They disappear people and murder people w/ impunity, and they definitely protect their own.

    When the power of the people actively and effectively shuts down their ability to kill us, then we’ll stop losing our children to licensed terrorism and assassination.

    It is very important to stay focused on the problem – not the state’s red herrings disguised as solutions.


  2. Malaika H Kambon

    When have AFRIKAN people ever gotten anything remotely close to justice from the DOJ or the FBI? These people are the larger paramilitary arms of the state. They're supposed to be investigating the assassination/lynching of Oscar Grant III, too. but Johannes Mehserle is now free as the breeze to do as he pleases. The state department getting involved this early in the situation (to me) says that someone is trying to stave off rebellions of the magnitude that occurred in the bay area – and do a better cover up, than was attempted w/ Mehserle. They stood mute w/ Oscar Grant III, because community was on top of the situation immediately when it happen(ed) and have become more vocal and alert as it continues to happen here. So they sent in waves of brutal police and became more (overtly) organized across the country, acclimating the general public to their brutality, by attacking the Occupy Wall Street Movement. The fact remains, however, that killer cops (and their spawned vigilantes) are an international pandemic. The impunity with which they use their license to kill is damn near sacrosanct. Obama, Holder, and other Negroes In Charge, everywhere in the world, et. all aren't going to bust a grape, even in face of growing evidence that the murder of VERY young AFRIKAN men and women in this country and globally has become much more prevalent. The World Wide Black Codes are being enforced with a vengeance. Thus, demanding justice by going to the chief killers isn't going to cut it. The killers must be taken to the court of 'criticizing the unjust,' i.e., the power of the people. Then, the shit will stop. ALL POWER TO THE PEOPLE!

  3. Selina

    “Those who are meant to protect us and our children have blatantly turned their backs on fairness and justice,” Cleaver, D-Mo., said. “We urge the Department of Justice to immediately and thoroughly investigate the shooting death of Trayvon Martin as a hate crime."

    "Those who are meant to protect us!!!!!!!!" REALLY what an idiotic statement

    It's sad but all we can to do is cont' to beg by marching and protesting for "justice" from a Criminal Syst. ran by criminals. It's pathetic!!!

  4. John Mulligan

    The only person with a legitimate self defense claim is Trayvon Martin. Why was Zimmerman following and hassling the kid?

  5. Malaika H Kambon

    Yes – we are still marching…but look at Haiti. When Haiti marches, 10, 20, 30 THOUSAND people and more show up – all of the time – and Haitians do more than march. Haitians organize. And Haitians do not ever give up! They are fighting a relentless war for liberation – and have been doing so despite deprivations that would send most people here insane… We must learn from Haiti, because do not forget that they are the ONLY AFRIKAN people to defeat the entire military might of Europe between 1791 – 1804 [and Thomas Jefferson's 40,000.00 of 'foreign aid' money to the genocidal monster Napoleon] and to throw off chattel enslavement and WIN a revolution! We've studied everyone else's revolution! We should be studying the Haitian revolution and remembering that WE CAN – AND WILL WIN! We should be standing strong and tall with Haiti – the way that she has always stood strong and tall with us! We are growing! Our sacrifices-the many political prisoners and prisoners of war; attacks upon our revolutionary media; our communities; our mental, physical and spiritual health; our education, work, land, food, and peoples' economy (not this mess imposed upon us by a genocidal bankrupt system) – let not any of these sacrifices be in vain! We have the power to win and we will. We are at war, and wars are won in the heart and in the will. So yes we march. And organize. And establish people's justice – not the state's just-us. We will win. ALL POWER TO THE PEOPLE. For updates on Haiti, go to For updates on Trayvon Martin stay tuned to the SF BAYVIEW and go to… For updates on other important cases, such as Freedom fighter Debray 'Fly Benzo' Carpenter, search and read all of the articles written by and about Fly in the SF BAYVIEW online and in hard copy. To help the SF BAYVIEW out even more, those businesses who need advertising, advertise in the SF BAYVIEW and encourage your friends and fellow entrepreneurs to do so as well… This is how the power of the people becomes a reality!

  6. Selina

    To Fight A War that has been conducted against you; means you don't march, you don't picket, you don't sing "We Shall overcome"

    You use weapons guns, knife whatever you can get your hands on !!!!!!!

  7. serious2020

    Who said anyone in Haiti was singing? Dr. John Henrik Clarke said long ago that marching is a waste of shoe leather, that we've done too much of it already. And he's right. And you're right too. Specifically if that is ALL that you do. In Haiti, that is not all that happens. And if you notice, they get shot and killed a lot, and the powers that be fear Haiti to no end, and they institute more and more repressive measures against them – up to and including rape, torture, murder, exile, economic embargoes, sending clinton and bu$h to turn Haiti into a large plantation… but Haiti keeps fighting back – and winning. We've got some miles to go to catch up. We're learning. We will win.

  8. jerry

    That is very true. This fight should have been fought decades ago. We marched but the occupy movement shows us we can make progress across this country, in every state (noticed how different states had different negative tactics and attitudes) and now is the time we should make government fear us instead of having the us fear the government. We are the only country that that is fearful of our government.

  9. Les B. Fare

    I agree this security guard should pay for his crime. Then everyone , including Al Sharpin to get there butts down to Los Angeles and do the same for the family of a young man shot and killed, point blank, for defending his elderly father from being pistol whipped and attempted robbery by two young black males. And NO! Iam not white…

  10. Judy

    Message to Les B.Fare I am so sorry about the loss of the of young man you speak of, too many young men are being killed on the streets and sent to wars that we shouldn't be fighting. I do write to my representatives about the wars, so should everyone else. My heart just hurts.__My heart aches, this is a senseless killing. I am white grandmother, mother, aunt, friend, I grew up in San Francisco, I do not see color. My grandfather taught me to respect everyone and not judge. But this one person who pulled the triger, he's evil, he had the intention to kill. I respect Al Sharpin's leadership. I will support him and do what he expects all of us to do. We must join together on on March 26th to send the message of solidarty with the families and advocates in Florida.__Judy B


Leave a Reply

BayView Classifieds - ads, opportunities, announcements