by Michael Coard
It’s been more than a few hours since your teenage son went out to buy some snacks during a break in a televised NBA All-Star game that you, he and his little brother were watching. But it’s no real big deal because you know he’s a good kid. No arrests. No gang stuff. No delinquency. No drugs. In fact, he’s an A-B 11th grade student athlete with aspirations of becoming an aviation mechanic.
So you know you really don’t need to worry. Maybe he ran into a cute girl. Maybe one of his buddies called him on the cell phone he was carrying and told him about an NBA party being held by some cool neighborhood youngsters.
Although you tell yourself you don’t really need to worry, you begin to worry anyway. And that’s because a few hours have turned into several hours. And the nighttime has turned into the daytime. So you call the local police department’s Missing Persons Unit, but they don’t have any info. So then you call 911, and the cops ask you for a description.
Shortly afterward, they show up with a photo of a bloody-mouth kid lying dead on a morgue stretcher. Toe-tagged as John Doe. But he had his cell phone with him. And the police had found it on him. And the names and numbers of his family are in it. But the cops never called you or anyone else in it to ask anything.
However, they did ask you if the battered corpse in that photo is your son. All you can do is slump to the floor, devastated by all-consuming shock and despair, and then drag yourself to your phone, call his mother, and, unable to say anything more, simply tell her “(our child) is gone.” Your innocent, unarmed boy. Murdered. With a gaping gunshot blast to the chest. Gone.
That can’t be. He just went to 7-Eleven. He just went to buy some Skittles and an iced tea. But it can be, and it is. He was murdered. He is gone. Forever. But imagine that it wasn’t Trayvon Martin and his family who it happened to. Imagine instead that it was your son, your grandson, your nephew or your little brother. Now what?
Well, before we figure out what to do, let’s start with what happened. It all began on the evening of Feb. 26 in Sanford, Florida, 20 miles north of Orlando. Three witnesses said they heard the 140 pound, 17-year-old Trayvon cry for help and then heard a sequence of sounds that contradicted the 240 pound, 28-year-old George Zimmerman.
And one of the three specifically mentioned that the crying stopped immediately after hearing Zimmerman’s Kel Tek 9 mm dead-on, upper center mass shot. That’s probably because humans stop crying after they’re murdered. While Trayvon lay face down in the grass, the still armed Zimmerman was standing straddled over the kid’s lifeless body. That was the first time the child was murdered, and it was by a racist criminal.
A witness mentioned that the crying stopped immediately after hearing Zimmerman’s Kel Tek 9 mm dead-on, upper center mass shot. That’s probably because humans stop crying after they’re murdered. (A police dispatcher had tried to convince the witness that it was Zimmerman’s voice she heard crying. – ed.)
He was murdered a second time, and that was by a racist criminal system. The self-appointed block watch captain who continued to stalk Trayvon despite a police order to the contrary, who exited his vehicle despite no criminal activity by the unarmed child who was outweighed by 100 pounds, who confronted him, and who then shot him was not arrested because, in the words of Sanford Police Chief Bill Lee, Zimmerman had a “squeaky clean” record and claimed self-defense.
But it wasn’t squeaky clean at all. In fact, he had been arrested, charged and prosecuted in July 2005 for assaulting an Orange County police officer. The lead offense was the felony “Resisting Officer With Violence – Battery On Law Enforcement” and the second was a misdemeanor. But, for some strange – i.e., white-privilege – reason, and despite the officer’s sworn affidavit accusing Zimmerman of the violent assault, the county prosecutor on June 15, 2006, agreed to enroll Zimmerman into a program similar to Pennsylvania’s Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition, which in both (and other) states is only for “non-violent first offenders.” In Florida, it’s called Pre-Trial Diversion.
Once a defendant completes that often less-than-one-year program, the arrest record is technically expunged. Contrary to media reports, however, Zimmerman’s case was never dismissed. It was simply hidden – unless of course you have a computer and check the county court clerk’s public website.
Chief Lee continued to systemically murder Trayvon and zealously defend Zimmerman by stating, “If someone asks you, ‘Hey, do you live here?’ is it OK for you to jump on them and beat the crap out of somebody?’ It’s not.” First of all, the eye- and ear-witnesses tell a story completely different from Zimmerman’s. Moreover, self-defense, or what lawyers properly call “justification,” can’t be reasonably claimed by aggressors, especially aggressors like Zimmerman who follow a person, confront that person, outweigh that person by 100 pounds, and outgun that person by possessing a high-powered firearm compared to Skittles and iced tea.
Self-defense, or what lawyers properly call “justification,” can’t be reasonably claimed by aggressors, especially aggressors like Zimmerman who follow a person, confront that person, outweigh that person by 100 pounds, and outgun that person by possessing a high-powered firearm compared to Skittles and iced tea.
And this bullshit justification claim is no less bullshit despite Florida’s cowboy “Stand Your Ground” law. This law, which in 2005 became the first of its kind among 16 others in the nation, basically means that a person has no duty to retreat outside in public even if he’s easily able to in response to danger just as a person has no duty to retreat inside at home in response to such danger. But that shoot ‘em up law doesn’t justify Zimmerman’s murderous vigilantism, especially after he responded yes when a 911 dispatcher asked him, “Are you following (Trayvon),” and then told him to stop immediately because “We don’t need you to do that.”
The aggressive Zimmerman, who had made 46 wanna-be cop assist calls to the Sanford police department during the past 14 months, had such a bad reputation among neighbors at the complex where he killed Trayvon that they had filed complaints. In fact, he was known to go door-to-door asking residents to “be on the look-out,” primarily for “young Black men.”
The chief wasn’t the first to bring racism to the department. It already had a sordid history before he took over in May of last year. On July 16, 2005, another unarmed Black child, 16-year-old Travares McGill, was murdered inside his car in the parking lot of another apartment complex by two white security guards. One was the 28-year-old son of a longtime former Sanford police officer and the other was a 26-year-old Sanford police deputy volunteer.
Neither was charged with murder but only with mere manslaughter and mere firing into an occupied vehicle. They, like Zimmerman, claimed self-defense. All charges were later dismissed by a judge who claimed there was a lack of evidence – despite the fact that the kid was shot in the back.
Furthermore, the same officer in charge of the current Trayvon tragedy also headed the investigation of the December 2010 case of Sherman Ware, a defenseless homeless Black man, who was viciously attacked by 21-year-old Justin Collison, the son of a bitch, I mean the son of a white Sanford police lieutenant, Chris Collison. That same investigating officer refused to arrest that cop’s son – despite the fact that the brutal assault was videotaped.
It wasn’t until after a local TV station broke the story that the son was finally arrested seven weeks later – and that was after the lieutenant’s family had paid off the homeless man in an unsuccessful attempt to get the charges dropped. That’s not all when it comes to racist law enforcement or lack thereof in “good ol’ boy” Seminole County.
Shortly after the July 1991 claim of a crack-addicted white female that she had been gang raped, the county sheriff quickly led a raid of 29 deputies into the Black community of Midway and immediately arrested and charged four Black men who he described as “animals.” But all charges were later dismissed after the drug-hazed woman finally admitted that she had made up the entire story.
Chief Lee stated a few days ago that he will soon submit his investigative report in Trayvon’s case to Brevard and Seminole County State Attorney Norm Wolfinger, after which the state’s formal investigation will begin. But don’t hold your breath. A state spokesperson said that murder and manslaughter investigations have been known to take up to a couple years. What? In this case with these facts?
I know that you racists out there will say that, although Trayvon’s death is obviously horrible, it’s relatively minor compared to the many so-called “Black-on-Black” murders throughout the country. And I’d agree that you have a point as far as the numbers are concerned. However, there’s a big difference. When Tyrone in the hood kills Jamal over a drug dispute, the cops don’t refuse to arrest him. And the DAs don’t refuse to prosecute him. And the juries don’t refuse to find him guilty. And the judges don’t refuse to sentence him to a lengthy jail term. That, my racist friend, is the big difference.
While stalking Trayvon and talking to the 911 dispatcher, Zimmerman said, “These assholes always get away with this.” Well, you know what? He was absolutely right about that. But, like all good things, all bad things also come to an end. And justice must prevail this time around so this racist criminal doesn’t “get away” with the first murder and so this racist criminal justice system doesn’t “get away” with the second murder.
While stalking Trayvon and talking to the 911 dispatcher, Zimmerman said, “These assholes always get away with this.” Well, you know what? He was absolutely right about that. But, like all good things, all bad things also come to an end. And justice must prevail this time around.
Now here’s what you should – I mean must – do. Call the Sanford police chief’s office at (407) 688-5070 and ask why he didn’t arrest Zimmerman immediately based on the facts – e.g., a stalker’s confronting and shooting death of an unarmed child who was outweighed by 100 pounds – that everyone agrees are undisputed. And call State Attorney Wolfinger at (321) 617-7548 and ask how soon he will file criminal charges based on those and other undisputed facts. Also, call U.S. Attorney Robert O’Neill at (813) 274-6000 and ask him how soon he will file civil rights violation charges based on those and other undisputed facts.
Michael Coard is a Philadelphia criminal defense attorney, community activist, founding member of Avenging the Ancestors Coalition and self-described angriest Black man in America. He also teaches at Temple University and writes about race, politics and the American justice system for the Philly Post, where this story first appeared. He can be reached at MichaelCoard@msn.com.
Editor’s note: Events in solidarity with Trayvon Martin across the country are listed at http://dreadtimes.com/m/news/view/17-y-o-Murdered-by-Neighborhood-Watch.