US Justice Department Opens Probe into Teen Killing

Posted March 20th, 2012 at 1:15 am (UTC-5)
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The U.S. Justice Department says it has opened an investigation into the killing of an unarmed black teenager by a citizens safety patrol volunteer in Florida.

In a statement late Monday, the Justice Department said it will conduct a “thorough and independent review of all evidence” in the shooting of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, who was returning from a local store carrying candy and a can of tea.

He was killed last month in the town of Sanford, just north of Orlando, by a 28-year-old man who called police saying he saw a suspicious person in his neighborhood.

CALLER: “This guy looks like he's up to no good or he's on drugs or something. He's got something in his hands. I don't know what his deal is.”

OPERATOR: “OK, just let me know if he does anything.”

CALLER: “Send an officer over here.”

OPERATOR: “Yea we've got them on the way. Just let me know if this guy does anything else.”


The dispatcher told the man, George Zimmerman, not to follow the teen.

Several neighbors made calls to police a short time later, frantically describing a scuffle, someone screaming for help and a gunshot.

CALLER 1: “There's someone out there now. I don't see anything but like a flashlight shining around, but I did hear someone

yelling 'help, help, help' or something like that and oh my gosh or something, and then like moaning and moaning and then I heard a boom!”

OPERATOR: “OK why do you think someone's been shot?”

CALLER 2: “Because it rang out in the back yard and the gun just went off and they said 'call 911.'”

OPERATOR: “OK we have several people calling in also. Anything else that you heard?”

CALLER 3: “Uh, no, a guy yelling help. Oh my god.”

The shooter, whose family described him as Hispanic, said he felt threatened and acted in self-defense. Police say he has not been arrested because they have no reason to doubt his version of the events.

The case has drawn protests, including Monday in the state capital, from those who say the shooting was not justified and that Zimmerman should be arrested.

“Justice for Trayvon. Justice for Trayvon. Justice for Trayvon.””

An online petition created on behalf of the victim's mother and grandmother and calling on prosecutors to “uphold justice” received nearly 500,000 signatures by early Tuesday.