Rally in Florida Over Shooting Death of Teenager

Posted March 22nd, 2012 at 5:15 pm (UTC-5)
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The parents of slain teenager Trayvon Martin spoke out Thursday at a rally in Sanford, Florida, calling for the arrest of the neighborhood watchman who shot their son to death last month.

Noting that the Sanford police chief temporarily stepped down earlier in the day, the victim's mother, Sybrina Fulton, said that move was “temporary relief.” But she said, “we still want our arrest.”

Supporters of the victim's family are holding a rally Thursday, organized by rights activist Al Sharpton. It is expected to draw thousands of people. Additionally, more than 1 million people have signed an online petition calling for the arrest of shooter George Zimmerman.

Zimmerman called emergency operators after the shooting, but was not arrested by local police because he claimed he shot the boy in self-defense while conducting his neighborhood watch patrol. But his phone calls to the operators suggest he had been following the 17-year-old through the neighborhood. The lawyer for the youngster's family also says the boy's girlfriend says she was talking to him on his mobile phone moments before his death.

Martin's parents met Thursday with officials from the U.S. Justice Department, which is conducting an investigation. Authorities are trying to determine if Zimmerman uttered a racial slur in one of his emergency calls, which could elevate the shooting to a federal hate crime.

Meanwhile Sanford Police Chief Bill Lee announced Thursday he will “temporarily” remove himself from office over growing criticism of the way the investigation was conducted.

“As a former homicide investigator, a career law enforcement officer, and a father, I am keenly aware of the emotions associated with this tragic death of a child. I'm also aware that my role as the leader of this agency has become a distraction from the investigation. While I stand by the Sanford police department, its personnel, and the investigation that was conducted in regards to the Trayvon Martin case, it is apparent that my involvement in this matter is overshadowing the process.”

City commissioners in Sanford have approved a “no-confidence” measure against Lee over his department's handling of the case.

On Wednesday, more than 1,000 people marched in New York City on behalf of Trayvon Martin, in a movement sparked by an online campaign on the social network, Facebook.

Prosecutors in Florida say they will convene a grand jury to investigate the incident.

The incident has also drawn attention to so-called “stand your ground” laws in Florida and several other states, which allow people to confront a potential attacker with deadly force if they feel their life is in danger.