Teenager Killed in Florida by Neighborhood Watch Brings Terror To My Heart

By NICK CHILES

An African-American family in Florida is still trying to figure out why their 17-year-old son was shot dead by the Neighborhood Watch captain in their gated subdivision last month, after he walked to a local convenience store for a pack of Skittles for his little brother. For some outrageous reason the Neighborhood Watch captain, who called 911 to report a “suspicious” person in the neighborhood and then blasted a hole in the boy’s chest before the police could respond, still has not been arrested.

These kinds of stories cut me deeply because I see my own life, my own son, my own circumstances, all up in the details. This is the fear that every parent of a black boy lives with—a fear that grows every year as they age and begin to leave your house without you alongside them. We have to let them go at some point, but it’s so damn hard. And stories like this only make it harder.

Seventeen-year-old Trayvon Martin (the angelic-faced boy in the picture above) lived in Miami with his mother, but he was visiting his father and stepmother in their gated subdivision in Sanford, a town about 20 miles north of Orlando. He was watching the NBA All-Star game when his 13-year-old brother asked Trayvon if he could get him a pack of Skittles at the store. That was the last time his family saw him alive.

When you mix an infatuation with guns in many of these Southern communities with an inflated (and usually false) sense of alarm about some lurking (and usually brown) criminal menace, this is the result you get. Seventeen-year-olds shot dead with a pack of Skittles in their pocket. The thought of that family rushing out to find Trayvon lying on a cold sidewalk in a pool of blood brings tears to my eyes—and a vague sense of terror to my heart.

My 19-year-old son is regularly harassed by the local cops when he comes home from college. He gets pulled over at least once a week so that they can “talk” to him. He never gets a ticket. One cop even told him that he doesn’t “belong” in our neighborhood and that he shouldn’t come back. Mind you, this was less than a mile from our house—in a neighborhood with a significant black population. WTF? And on more than one occasion, we’ve gotten emails from neighbors concerned about a criminal presence. A few years back, some idiotic teenagers stole video games from someone’s house. That was the extent of the local crime spree. But it’s not hard at all for me to imagine an overzealous local cop or overeager, gun-toting neighbor believing that they were solving our “crime” problem by pulling a piece on my boy, who would undoubtedly either be on his way to or from his girlfriend’s house or the gym—since it seems those are the only two places he goes when he’s home from school.

These are the thoughts that drive black parents crazy—and that sometimes make me think that it might be safer for him to just stay on campus 24/7.

Wait, I forgot—they shoot black boys on campus too, as I wrote about here two years ago when a Pace University football player was killed by police on the school’s Westchester County, New York, campus.

Am I allowed to lock him in the basement until he hits 40, when he might be out of danger?

RELATED POSTS:

1. Teenage Car Traumas: A Dad Loses Control
2. Another Black Boy, Another Senseless Murder—When Will It Stop?
3. Black Boy Swagger, Black Mom Fear
4. Evil Black Men

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Denene Millner

Mom. NY Times bestselling author. Pop culture ninja. Unapologetic lover of shoes, bacon and babies. Nice with the verbs. Founder of the top black parenting website, MyBrownBaby.

42 Comments

  1. Kamari Chelsea

    Thank you for sharing this young boy and his family’s story. We need more mainstream conversation and awareness about how many of our sons are dying for no reason. I only pray that people begin to realize the countless invisible young black faces lives that are taken without explanation or mention, and how many more there will be until enough of us begin to care.

    • The Other Side

      I agree that this is a tragic story, but all of these articles are biased and there are other reasons that the Watchman shot him.
      1. Trayvon didn’t live in the gated community he was shot in, but the one next to it. He wasn’t supposed to be in there, but wanted to take a short cut on his way home from the store.
      2. When the Watchman asked his what he was doing there, he ran instead of responding.
      3. After the Watchman caught up to him, Trayvon punched the man. In this article, it makes it seem that the Watchman pushed Trayvon, when really, it was the other way around. By Florida law, the Watchman did have a right to fire his gun if he felt threatened by Trayvon.

      I still feel for this young man’s family and am not saying that Trayvon deserved to be shot ( I think that it is heartbreaking and wish that our world wasn’t this violent ) but be careful of how much you believe of what you read. Every article is bias, so make sure that you know both sides of the story before forming your own bias!

      God bless Trayvon’s family, and all that were affected by this horrible incident…

      • Dear “The Other Side”,
        You Obvciously have never lost anyone you love to a violent act such as this. As far as I am concerned Mr. Zimmerman took the law into his own hands when he followed and then executed Trayvon. If you happened to see the story on the news where they played the police tape you would have heard the police operator tell Mr. Zimmerman not to follow Trayvon that the police were on their way. So please dsont try and justify him killing this young man. Its truly sad that we live in a country in the year 2012 where we have to train our Afrian-American male children how to behave when outside of their homes. “Its A Shame And A Disgrace

        Signed
        Angry And Saddened In New York City

      • I think that people just should be nice and non-violent, it rediculis how much fighting and war there is. I do see why the watchman would be jumpy but he should of just stayed far behind him and watch his movements before even confronting him, he should of just been doing his job, WATCHING. If people would just learn to watch insted of allways jumping in everything, the world would probly be better off.

  2. I lived in a neighborhood that formed a watch such as this. After returning home from work late one night, I witnessed how aggressive they were. My own neighbor trailed me to my driveway to the point of almost rear ending my car. He was totally zoned out of reality. Of course, after coming to his senses and realizing I was his neighbor, he felt foolish and apologized. I was very upset.

    I immediately thought of our two teen boys and the harassment they would have faced. We had a long conversation about racial profiling, vigilantly tendencies in our society and being home before a certain time at night to prevent this type of madness happening to them. Luckily, we moved before either of them got their first car.

  3. Wow! My heart aches reading this, unbelievable! Interestingly, I was just at the home of a very affluent AA family yesterday and this was a part of our convo. She explained to us the steps she has taken to ensure her young, educated son is not harassed by the police on his spring break trip down to Panama City. I thought to myself “is this still going on?” This story answers that crazy question.

    I fear for my sons and we have had these conversations, hoping that they wouldn’t encounter problems in their day-to-day life of DWB or WWB. The thought of someone even slightly harassing them brings so much angst but the story doesn’t often end well for the harassers….ijs

    When will this STOP!?!?!

  4. I can totally imagine this happening with our Neighborhood Crime Watch people. They are all in their 70s and 80s and way overzealous. They scare me.

  5. Such a sad story. I appreciate you for sharing.

  6. This is so real. What makes it even sadder is stereo-typing. And these days teenagers play into the stereotypes without even knowing it.

  7. The song “Strange Fruit” immediately comes to mind. This is senseless, sad and sordid on all levels. I have no words.

  8. My son is 12 and I read stories like this and worry for him. He is faced with autism and doesn’t even being to understand what is ahead of him being a young black man. I know I can’t always be around him but I worry. This story and why he got shot doesn’t even make any sense.

  9. neighborhood watch programs are ridiculous excuses for vigilantes to parade around as law enforcement. if the roles had been reversed and it was a 26 yr old black man shooting a 17 year old white boy this would have been handled the day the crime took place.

    • How about instead of pointing fingers (if he were white…) We do something proactive. I get SO tired of that BECAUSE THAT SEEMS TO BE AT LEAST 30% OF EVERYONES REACTIONS regardless of race. Meanwhile, WHAT WAS THIS GUY DOING with a gun?! And since when was neighborhood watch allowed to b armed? Yes, this guy should be prosecuted AND THE FAMILY SHOULD SUE THE NEIGHBORHOOD ASSOCIATION FOR ALLOWING THIS GUY TO BE ON DUTY W/ A GUN!

    • The Other Side

      I agree that this is a tragic story, but all of theses articles are biased and there are other reasons that the Watchman shot him.
      1. Trayvon didn’t live in the gated community he was shot in, but the one next to it. He wasn’t supposed to be in there, but wanted to take a short cut on his way home from the store.
      2. When the Watchman asked his what he was doing there, he ran instead of responding.
      3. After the Watchman caught up to him, Trayvon punched the man. In this article, it makes it seem that the Watchman pushed Trayvon, when really, it was the other way around. By Florida law, the Watchman did have a right to fire his gun if he felt threatened by Trayvon.

      I still feel for this young man’s family and am not saying that Trayvon deserved to be shot ( I think that it is heartbreaking and wish that our world wasn’t this violent ) but be careful of how much you believe of what you read. Every article is bias, so make sure that you know both sides of the story before forming your own bias!

      God bless Trayvon’s family, and all that were affected by this horrible incident…

  10. Here is a link to a petition regarding this matter;

    http://www.change.org/petitions/prosecute-the-murderer-of-17-year-old-trayvon-martin

    Please sign it and share the link so something is done about this murder

  11. I feel you sister. I don’t have a son but I do have a grandson and I pray for him everyday. He has been stopped so many times it is definitely harrassment. He has been stopped from music too loud to license plate light out. And, when he is stopped they search his car with his 2 year old daughter in her car seat. Once, he was going to his mom’s house and the police surrounded him and his cousin made them get on the ground with guns to their head. A neighbor called my daughter to say there is a police action in fornt of her house. She was hysterical to see police officers with guns aimed at her son and nephew heads. It turns out there was an incident a couple streets over and they thought they were the young men involved. They always have a reason. But, what about our young men’s rights? Our young Black boys and men are in danger whether they are privilleged and doing the right thing or at-risk in the hood.

  12. My condolences to the family. A Black family’s worst fear has come true again. We continue to live in a Black and White world. I am always amazed when my White counterparts think otherwie.

  13. History is just that. We dont have a real clue of our own. We were to work, slave, serve. Anything else was prohibited. Drugs were introduced sythetically altered for this purpose. We have always been the target, the fear, the menace, the source, the escape goat, the model and of course usual suspect. This even after intergration, huh, doesn’t seem possible. Open your eyes, the upcoming election. Stir up racial tension, get them fighting, get them scared and divided. Open your eyes. The same old strategy. Even if a young innocent dies…. Thats a little for now. I talk to you all more soon…….

  14. Our kids are under attack. They dont realize it though. We dont say shit to them Not knowingly. We too busy working, clubbing, fighting, fucking, shopping,serfing, rapping, dancing, gambling, drinking, smoking…… All which were in us from the beginning… The problem is what was natural and in moderation.. The excesses were instilled for addictive purposes. The naturals were witheld. Cocaine to work longer, cigs as payment, No money for clothes or cheap shit. Conditioning….Now my son runs to the Upper areas to see his friends and im on constant guard. Kill our kids mentally, physically and preoccupy the mind with crap. Its our chance….4 by 4 14 of 14

  15. Sorry cant sleep with things on my mind. We mean mug each other all the time. We are not united enough to be strong. Not united for aggression but success. Get wealthy blacks from various feilds and Careers open apartments, Combine rich and wealthy for the purpose of our future. Remember unity block parties. To unite the neighberhood. Looking out for eachother. Tidbit, did you know life insurance policies were only 10,000 for blacks and 200,000 for whites for nearly 80 years. Insurers of the slave ships wanted payment for the ones paid for that died or jumped overboard. The number one resource is humans. Slave, sharecropper, , Maid, driver, servant, entertainment, prison labor. Open your eyes, get the picture. 4 by 4 14 of 14.

  16. Clarification to previous. Lords of London, Lynch,Willie Lynch, slave whip overseer, Charles Lynch writer, Merrill Lynch, stocks and insurance. The bull of Wall Street. The Papel bull of 1493, declaring africans, blacks as heathen and take all they have. Open your eyes. THESE ARE THE DESCENDANTS…. Things have not changed. I am here…. 4 by 4 14 of 14

  17. My heart breaks for this young man’s family, and for the loss of life and potential he held.

    And I’m disgusted beyond words that Zimmerman is not in custody.

    It disgusts me than in 2012 in the USA there are still bigoted people who think MURDER is “less of a crime” than being a young black man in a “gated” community.

    Trayvon, your murder was a disgusting act by a disgusting man, and I pledge to you as a gay white man in Canada to always stand up for my brothers and sisters in this diverse and beautiful world who continue to be targeted by bigoted and prejudiced people who hold nothing but hatred and contempt in their hearts.

    We will not let you die in vain. Justice will be served and the world will wake up to the still-very-real dangers of racial prejudice in our collective culture.

  18. This so sad…I am white but still I agree with the fact that this young man shouldn’t have been shot because of his skin color….This neighborhood should really get a new watch captain and crew that don’t judge people by their skin color….

  19. I’m white. This makes me sick. As parents, we have enough to worry about, I can’t believe that in the 21st century we still have this problem. I always thought it was just in the south, but it’s not. I just read about a white family that starved their child & kept him locked up in a cage. Some people are just plain evil. They’re nuts, perhaps barely human. It’s disgusting. I’m so sorry this happened & my heart truly aches for this family. I hope they (at the very least) press charges against this guy. You give some people a gun & they think they are above all the rules. I pray this family finds comfort – somehow.

  20. Also, the piece was written very well. Thanks for that!

  21. Zimmerman should be put in the electric chair, with a big lawsuit on Florida for not arresting him

  22. Well well well , I can not agree enough with Mike 4 by 4. I have said this over and over for the past 25years of my life, we do not understand our existence Politically, Socially, Economically, Scientifically and the love towards each other under this new world order. Until we recognize our weakness and understand the existence of life “Your right to exist”, that is what I will stress on, your God given right to exist. As a father of two boys, a 24 and a 10 year old, I taught them from birth the meaning of their existence in this world and their moral responsibility: Politically, Socially, Economically, Scientifically, and to challenge oppression. It does not surprise me to see this epidemic unfolding, yes to commit “Lynching” in a social way by changing the rules of engagement, law on their side. Well there is a solution to the madness that has been implemented in the past by great Black leaders ( Malcom X, Steve Biko, Marcus Garvey, Vicente Guerrero) and many others who were eliminated, executed and or assassinated. I personally took the stand to make changes and fight oppression and was persecuted by my own black people.

  23. This is unbelievable.The shooter has a prior,battering a law enforcement officer.He then kills an unarmed minor.He is never arrested.The victim is getting the blame.

    Only in America!

  24. What is more insulting is the clowning police department that must be the laughing stock of the entire nation

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