By NICK CHILES
While the furor over the shooting death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin continues to build, the release of the 911 tapes surrounding the case just add to my disgust over the fact that the police department in Sanford, Florida, has effectively endorsed the actions of the shooter, neighborhood watch captain George Zimmerman, by saying they have no reason to arrest him.
The details that have been revealed show that Zimmerman was an armed and overzealous cop wannabe who felt his job was to rid the subdivision of suspicious young black men. With such a mindset, an altercation like the one that led to him blasting a hole in Trayvon’s chest was almost inevitable—especially in a neighborhood that was growing increasingly black.
As the outrage grows, I only hope it doesn’t let up until Zimmerman is behind bars. A spokesperson for the State Attorney’s Office in Seminole County, where Sanford is located, said the office website was so bombarded by emails demanding that it prosecute Zimmerman that its website had to be taken down for 45 minutes. The petition calling for Zimmerman’s arrest has garnered more than 355,000 signatures on the change.org site, and at one point signatures were pouring in at the rate of 10,000 an hour, according to the site.
The 911 tapes are bone-chilling because they captured the desperate, loud, moaning pleas of a boy who sounds like he’s begging for his life. Zimmerman claims that he was the one crying out—somehow even though he was holding a Kel Tek 9mm and pursuing a teenager, Zimmerman says he felt his own life was in danger. While I’m not a speech expert, when I listen to the tape the high-pitched voice I hear pleading and moaning sounds much more like a 17-year-old boy than a burly 28-year-old man. Witnesses in the subdivision say the same thing: they heard a boy begging for his life.
And when you simply parse the actions of Zimmerman before the shooting, each of the decisions he made led directly to the boy’s death. Firstly, and most importantly, he ignored the 911 dispatcher’s directive for him to stay in his car and not confront the “suspicious” boy because the police would take care of it.
This is where the entire case hinges. As a black man who’s been walking the streets of the U.S. for more than three decades, I’ve been followed by cops on many occasions. When I was a student at Yale, I used to get an escort home by the campus police almost nightly when they’d spot me strolling through the pristine New Haven campus after dark. It enraged me—sometimes I used to wonder what the police would do if I suddenly took off running back to my room. Of course I never did—hey, I wasn’t suicidal—but all kinds of crazy thoughts would race through my head. But here’s the thing: the police never got out of their car and confronted me. Because they knew that as long as they followed me, I was not going to commit any crimes and very soon it would become apparent where I was heading and what I was up to—as soon as I pulled out a key and made my way into my residential college/dorm, I was instantly transformed from a “suspicious” black guy into a student. If the idea was to keep the campus safe, confrontation wasn’t necessary. As soon as they get out of the car and approach me, they immediately change the nature of the affair—now there is a very real possibility of some kind of physical encounter, of something stupid happening.
That brings me back to George Zimmerman. His father says he’s half Hispanic, speaks Spanish, has plenty of black friends and couldn’t possibly be racist. Of course this is the same defense we always get in these cases—the “but I have black friends” plea. But this case isn’t really about who Zimmerman hung out with in high school or who’s around when he grabs a beer at the local bar. This is about a guy who has proclaimed on more than one occasion that his goal was to rid the neighborhood of black guys who were there to commit crimes. In a story in the Miami Herald, one 25-year-old black male resident said he was so afraid of Zimmerman’s overzealousness that he decided not to do his recreational walks in the subdivision after Zimmerman sent out emails saying he was intent on stopping black males who were committing crimes.
No, this doesn’t mean Zimmerman is a racist. But he’s certainly selective and discriminatory in his views of who are the criminals and “suspicious” characters in his neighborhood. Even if some burglaries have been committed by young black males over the years, does that justify this cop wannabe getting out of his car, carrying his semiautomatic weapon, and confronting every young black man he sees? Wouldn’t he be just as effective in preventing crimes if he kept his ass in the car and just followed the boy until his intent became clear?
During his call to the dispatcher on Feb. 26, Zimmerman reportedly said, “Hey, we’ve had some break-ins in my neighborhood, and there’s a real suspicious guy at Retreat View Circle. This guy looks like he’s up to no good.”
When he was told to stay in his car, Zimmerman resisted the idea because, he said, “These assholes always get away.”
Well, if Zimmerman continues to walk free after killing 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in cold blood, I think we can say the same thing about him.
1. Teenager Killed in Florida by Neighborhood Watch Brings Terror To My Heart
2. The Nation Is Watching: the Killer of Trayvon Martin MUST Be Arrested (UPDATE)
3. Another Black Boy, Another Senseless Murder When Will It Stop?
4. Black Boy Swagger, Black Mom Fear