By NICK CHILES
UPDATE: the case in the shooting death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman, a Neighborhood Watch captain in the child’s Sanford, FL, community, has been handed over to the state attorney. Details, along with a petition demanding justice in Trayvon’s death, are at the end of this post.
Not only has George Zimmerman, the 28-year-old Neighborhood Watch captain who killed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in a gated community in Sanford, Florida, still not been arrested, but the more details that emerge in this crazy case, the more outrageous it gets. The Sanford police chief says that the police don’t have “probable cause” to dispute Zimmerman’s claims of self-defense. Neighbors say there have been complaints in the past about Zimmerman’s aggressive tactics. And, perhaps most disturbingly, when Zimmerman made the call to 911 about a suspicious person in his community, he reportedly told the 911 dispatcher that he wasn’t going to let the black teen get away because “they always get away.”
The national chorus of outrage is growing louder every day, with African-American leaders and activists like Rev. Al Sharpton questioning how Zimmerman could still be walking free after shooting an unarmed boy in the chest. Trayvon’s heartbroken family has started an online petition at change.org—the petition had more than 11,000 signatures as of late last night—pleading for Zimmerman to be prosecuted for the murder of their boy, who walked to the 7-Eleven to get Skittles for his little brother and never came back home.
I wrote last week about how deeply this case has affected me because its circumstances so closely resemble my own—my 19-year-old son, who came to live with me and his stepmother when he was 14, is regularly harassed by the police in our subdivision for driving while black. And judging by the response to my post, there are many other black parents out there who have to fight back the fear every time their teenaged sons leave the house—a fear that is ironically heightened in subdivisions where overzealous neighborhood watch patrols are supposed to be making the residents feel safer.
The police department and state attorney’s office down in Florida can’t afford to get this one wrong; for so many reasons, it’s a test case that all African-American parents, particularly in the South, need to watch closely. Because of recent migration patterns, the South is brimming with relatively new subdivisions that are filled with black families who have moved down here from the North, looking for a more peaceful, stress-free lifestyle. I know this because we are one of those families. Inside of these subdivisions, there remain “elements” who aren’t entirely comfortable with the way the neighborhood’s complexion has changed over the past decade or so. In response to imaginary threats from these dark new intruders, Neighborhood Watch patrols have popped up all over the South—often staffed by aggressive, overzealous men (young and old), just itching to use one of their coveted guns. And let’s not make any mistake about it—Southerners love to shoot stuff. The worst possible message to come out of this case would be that these Neighborhood Watch guys have the right to execute young black boys without fear of prosecution or retribution.
That can not happen here.
George Zimmerman needs to be arrested, prosecuted and stashed away behind bars for a very long time for shooting Trayvon Martin. If he’s not, I fear that the sedate and lovely subdivisions of the South will become paved and well-manicured shooting ranges. And we all know who the targets will be.
Please join Trayvon Martin’s parents in calling on Norman Wolfinger, Florida’s 18th District State’s Attorney, to investigate their son’s murder and prosecute George Zimmerman for the shooting and killing of their child. Sign the “Prosecute the Killer Of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin” petition at Change.org.
UPDATE: The police chief in Sanford turned over the investigation into the killing of Miami teen Trayvon Martin by Neighborhood Watch captain George Zimmerrman to the Seminole-Brevard State Attorney’s Office for review today. Meanwhile, news reports reveal the questionable police conduct in the case; police officers are alleged to have tampered with witness testimony, taken Zimmerman at his word that he had no criminal record (without checking for sure), and sending a narcotics detective to the scene rather than a homicide detective, who could have investigated in a different way. Details of what happened that night are on the ABC News website.
1. Teenager Killed in Florida by Neighborhood Watch Brings Terror To My Heart
2. Teenage Car Traumas: A Dad Loses Control
3. Another Black Boy, Another Senseless Murder When Will It Stop?
4. Black Boy Swagger, Black Mom Fear
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.