I have been following the story datelined Sanford, Florida of the killing of the 17 year old teenager, Trayvon Martin by a neighborhood security block watcher, George Zimmerman. Here’s what we know at this point. Martin was walking through his father’s Sanford neighborhood after buying a bag of Skittles and some iced tea at a store. Zimmerman, in his SUV, allegedly observed Martin walking in the neighborhood, and reported to a police dispatcher that Martin was acting suspicious, looking at homes and looked like he was on drugs (Suspicious Walking While Black; SWWB). Zimmerman then said, “These guys always get away”. The dispatcher asked Zimmerman if he was following Martin and Zimmerman responded, “Yes.” The dispatcher told Zimmerman not to follow Martin, let the police handle it.
At this point only Zimmerman and Martin know what actually happened and Martin is now dead. We do know Zimmerman left his vehicle and apparently, there was a physical confrontation between the two. People in their homes called 911 and reported they were hearing loud voices and someone yelling for help. The voices could be heard on the 911 tapes and a single gunshot could also be heard. Zimmerman has stated he shot Martin in self defense because he felt threatened and feared for his life. The state of Florida has a law called Stand Your Ground, which allows individuals to defend themselves, if they feel their lives are in danger.
This incident has exploded nationwide because no legal action has been taken against Zimmerman. The Sanford police are saying there was no legal action they could take because they couldn’t refute Zimmerman’s self-defense claim. Martin’s family and other people are very upset that Zimmerman hasn’t been arrested, because his explanation of the event just doesn’t make sense.
I have spent over 30 years in law enforcement and have to agree; the Sanford police should have conducted an immediate investigation into Zimmerman’s actions and presented the case to the attorney’s office. The police department is now being forced to conduct a thorough investigation of the killing of Martin. The killing occurred on February 26, 2012 and if there hadn’t been an uproar from the Martin family and others, I believe the Sanford police department would have just closed this case with a judgment of justifiable homicide.
It’s sad that in 2012 we still have incidences of racism, racial profiling and an appearance of a lack of value for the life of a black teenager, both by Zimmerman and the Sanford Police department. What jumps out at me is a question: if Zimmerman had been black and Martin white, with all of the facts being the same, would Martin be in jail? I think he would.
Some people have a problem with the so-called race card being played. In my opinion, this is because the issue of race is very difficult for people, the media, politicians and academia to discuss adequately. This country still has a problem with racial issues and the race card should be played if it is a factor in issues pertaining to our life. We can’t be afraid to tackle sensitive subject matters such as these because it has the potential to destroy our society.
Zimmerman reminds me of some security guards who can’t qualify as sworn police officers, either due to lack of experience, education or prior law enforcement contacts. Zimmerman was arrested in 2005 on suspicion of battery against a law enforcement officer. Although the charge was eventually dropped, it probably killed his chance of becoming an official police officer. Law enforcement officers would call these people wannabes, who look for any way to show they are or can be just as proficient in law enforcement as an actual police officer.
Zimmerman’s actions, in my opinion, are those of an individual with an ax to grind; he was going to prove he was as good at police work as any police officer. It didn’t matter that the dispatcher told him to not follow Martin and he said, “Okay.” He obviously left his vehicle and confronted Martin. He wouldn’t have felt that he feared for his life if he had just listened to the dispatcher, stopped his surveillance and stayed in his SUV. His comment of “these guys always get away” shows a predisposed negative attitude towards Martin, bordering on racism. Was his attitude… ‘this guy is not going to get away from me’? As a neighborhood watch guard, Zimmerman is prohibited from carrying a gun. Their instructions are to watch and report to the police, not to be a policeman and make an arrest!
Martin was just walking through the neighborhood going to his father’s home. No neighbor had called to report him. Zimmerman reported Martin looked suspicious because he wore a hooded sweater and was looking at homes. Also, Zimmerman reported Martin was carrying something; as it turned out, he was: a container of tea and a bag of Skittles. These are the facts that resulted in Martin’s death. If Martin had been white, he would still be alive. Martin died because of SWWB.
Zimmerman has stated it was his voice yelling for help. That is in question because Martin’s mother says: “the voice was that of [her] son”. It is hard for me to believe Zimmerman feared for his life and had to shoot Martin, because Zimmerman is not only 100 pounds heavier but also had a gun and Martin only had Skittles. Why would he have to yell for help?
Another question: why was Zimmerman allowed to carry a gun if he was arrested in 2005 for assault?
I hope Martin and his family receive the justice they deserve and that this case will serve as a barometer to prevent this type of thing from reoccuring.