The killing of an unarmed black teenager has put the police department in Sanford, Fla., and state laws regarding self-defence, under an uncomfortable spotlight.
Trayvon Martin, 17, was fatally shot in late February by George Zimmerman, 28, who claimed he was acting in self-defence. Zimmerman has not been arrested and continues to carry a license to have a gun. Police have defended their handling of the situation claiming the case falls under the “Stand Your Ground” state law, which allows individuals to use fatal force when acting in self-defence. But the recent release of 911 calls suggest there could be more to the story and race could be a factor.
According to a Think Progress fact sheet, Zimmerman, a white male, has a record of acting like a vigilante. (He belongs to a neighbourhood watch group). “Zimmerman called the police 46 times since Jan. 1, 2011.” (…) “According to neighbors, Zimmerman was ‘fixated on crime and focused on young, black males.'”
The Miami Herald reported yesterday that Sanford Police Chief, Bill Lee Jr., was stepping down over his handling of the Martin file, and Florida Governor Rick Scott has appointed a new prosecutor to lead the case.
Martin’s death has become a national, and now international, matter. Florida high school students have staged street protests calling for a thorough investigation for the past few days, and yesterday in New York City over 1,000 protesters with the Occupy Wall Street movement marched calling for Zimmerman’s arrest.