Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Black teen's death stirs outrage in U.S.

Race, gun control in spotlight after unarmed boy, 17, killed

  • Print

SANFORD, Fla. -- Responding to widespread protests across the country, the U.S. Justice Department says it will investigate the shooting of an unarmed black teen in a case that has sparked racial tensions and could explore the growing number of states that allow people to use deadly force if they feel threatened.

George Zimmerman, 28, says he shot 17-year-old Trayvon Martin last month in self-defence during a confrontation in a Florida gated community. Police have described Zimmerman as white; his family says he is Hispanic and not racist.

Zimmerman spotted Martin as he was patrolling his neighbourhood last month and called the police emergency dispatcher to report a suspicious person. Against the dispatcher's advice, Zimmerman followed Martin, who was walking back from a convenience store with snacks.

Attorney Benjamin Crump, who represents Martin's parents, said the teenager was on the phone with his girlfriend when he told her he was being followed. Martin told the girl he'd taken shelter from the rain briefly at an apartment building in the gated community before continuing his walk to where he was staying with his father nearby.

"He says, 'Oh, he's right behind me, he's right behind me again,"' Crump says the girl told him. "She says, 'Run.' He says, 'I'm not going to run, I'm just going to walk fast.' She hears Trayvon say, 'Why are you following me?' Other voice says, 'What are you doing around here?"'

She told Crump they both repeated themselves and then she thinks she heard Zimmerman push Martin "because his voice changes like something interrupted his speech." She heard an altercation and then the phone call was cut off.

Within moments, according to Crump's timeline, Martin was shot. She didn't hear the gunfire.

The case has drawn national attention. College students around Florida rallied Monday to demand Zimmerman's arrest. An online petition urging local authorities to prosecute Zimmerman has drawn more than 500,000 signatures.

The Justice Department said in a statement late Monday the FBI and the U.S. Attorney's Office will join in the agency's investigation.

In a statement released Tuesday, Seminole County State Attorney Norm Wolfinger said a grand jury will convene April 10 to consider the case. He urged the public to be patient as the investigation unfolds.

But authorities may be limited by state law that allows people to defend themselves with deadly force.

Under the old law, people could use deadly force in self-defence only if they had tried to run away or otherwise avoid the danger. The new law has no duty to retreat, and it gives a person the right "to stand his or her ground and meet force with force, including deadly force," if he or she feels threatened.

Florida was the first state to pass a "Stand Your Ground" law, which has been dubbed a "Shoot First" law by gun control advocates.

About half of all U.S. states now have similar laws, said Brian Malte, legislative director of the Brady Campaign, which describes itself as the nation's largest organization dedicated to the prevention of gun violence.

Martin's parents and other advocates have said the shooter would have been arrested had he been black. "You would think that Sanford is still in the 1800s, claiming that this man can call self-defence for shooting an unarmed boy," restaurant owner Linda Tillman said.

Prosecutors can have a hard time making a case if no one else is around to contradict a person who claims self-defence, said David Hill, a criminal defence attorney. So far, police have said there is no evidence to contradict Zimmerman's claims.

-- The Associated Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 21, 2012 A9

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes


  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.


Make text: Larger | Smaller


Feeling at home at Home Expressions

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • A Canada goose protects her nest full of eggs Monday on campus at the University of Manitoba- Standup photo- Apr 30, 2012   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)
  • BORIS MINKEVICH / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS  070527 The 21st Annual Teddy Bears' Picnic at Assiniboine Park. The Orlan Ukrainian Dancers perform on stage.

View More Gallery Photos


Are you in favour of relocating Winnipeg's rail yards and lines?

View Results

Ads by Google