Trayvon Martin was a happy, skinny 17 year old kid visiting his father at his home in Sanford, Florida. He took a short walk to the local 7-11 for an iced tea and a fix for his sweet tooth, a bag of brightly-colored, fruit-flavored candies called Skittles.
This same thing happens in every city, suburb and small town in America a million times a day; kids stepping down to the local convenience store for a Big Gulp and a bag of chips, a candy bar, a hotdog. It happens every day and every night here in the USA.
This was different.
Trayvon Martin was black. It was a dark and rainy night, and he was walking through a gated condominium complex back to his dad’s townhouse. He had the misfortune to encounter the local vigilante and “Cops” wannabe, George Zimmerman, who made another of his obsessively frequent calls to 9-1-1. Mr. Zimmerman had reportedly made over 45 calls to 9-1-1 in the last year. This time he called 9-1-1 to report a suspicious young black man “up to no good,” who must be on drugs who had his hand in his waistband. He mentioned local break-ins and told the dispatcher that the suspicious man was running away.
The dispatcher told Mr. Zimmerman directly not to follow the man, but Mr. Zimmerman simply responded with “Okay,” and ignored the 9-1-1 operator’s instructions. He continued to follow Trayvon, and suddenly there were multiple emergency calls from neighbors about a man screaming. In the graphic recordings of the 9-1-1 calls, you can hear garbled screams of “help me!” and then at least one gunshot , possibly two, followed by silence.
Trayvon Martin lay dead on the wet pavement. His only weapons were a can of Arizona Iced Tea and a bag of Skittles. George Zimmerman, the beefy 250 pounder who pulled the trigger, had a history of problems with law enforcement, and should never have been issued a concealed carry permit in the first place. His neighbors described him as “fixated on crime” and “focused on young black males” with a history of over-aggressive actions as part of the complex’s neighborhood watch. And yet, on that dark rainy night, he was carrying a Glock 9mm handgun.
Mr. Zimmerman claimed that he shot 140 pound Trayvon Martin in self-defense under Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law, a heinous piece of legislation sponsored and backed fervently by the National Rifle Association. This law stands justice on its head; it encourages every gun-toting aspiring action hero to grab for his Clint Eastwood moment, “Go ahead, punk, make my day.” If there are no witnesses, the shooter merely has to claim that the shooting was in self-defense, and it’s up to the victim – even if the victim is dead – to prove that he or she was no threat.
Trayvon Martin was no threat. He was a skinny, scared, unarmed kid who tried to run away from a pistol-packing vigilante who outweighed him by 100 pounds … and didn’t make it.
What makes this tragedy truly heinous is that George Zimmerman is still a free man.
He shot and killed Trayvon Martin on the night of February 26, 2012, and as of this date, he has not been arrested or charged with any crime. He was not tested for drugs or alcohol, which is standard investigative procedure in homicide cases, and there are allegations that the local police attempted to “correct” one of the local witnesses, a schoolteacher who heard the boy cry for help.
As this story receives national coverage (on every cable channel except for, naturally, FOX), the cries for justice are swelling in volume, and this evening it was announced that the Justice Department will sponsor an independent investigation of the shooting of Trayvon Martin. George Zimmerman targeted this young man because he was black and played out his cop fantasies by capping the “suspect” with a 9mm slug to the chest. Mr. Zimmerman was profiling and targeting young black males, and finally “got his man,” so this case should be tried for what it is: a hate crime.