Furor Over Trayvon Martin Murder Leads to Justice Dept. Investigation

WASHINGTON – Ugly America laid out.

It’s taken a long time, but this horrendous crime is finally in the headlines, with community furor over the murder of Trayvon Martin exploding on Monday.

Late to the case was the announcement of Seminole County State Attorney Norm Wolfinger, as well as Gov. Rick Scott, following the Justice Department’s announcement late Monday night.

From the Miami Herald:

Wolfinger’s statement followed a decision late Monday by the U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division and the FBI to investigate the killing of the Miami Gardens teenager by a neighborhood watch volunteer.

That announcement coincided with a statement from Florida Gov. Rick Scott asking the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to offer “appropriate resources” in the case.

The federal and state agencies are intervening in what attorneys call a botched investigation into the killing of the Michael Krop Senior High School student, who was killed Feb. 26 in Sanford, a town of 55,000 just north of Orlando. Trayvon, 17, on suspension from school, was staying at his father’s girlfriend’s house when he walked to a nearby a 7-Eleven store to buy candy and iced tea.

The 911 tape is chilling (see video above), the second call is is reportedly from the man alleged to have gunned down Trayvon Martin.

George Zimmerman, being described as a “neighborhood watch volunteer,” is fortunate he’s not black. If he were he’d be in jail.

Zimmerman’s father is focusing on the media in a one-page letter he sent the Orando-Sentinel.

Reading Charles Blow is the first time I’d heard about this case.

Trayvon had left the house he and his father were visiting to walk to the local 7-Eleven. On his way back, he caught the attention of George Zimmerman, a 28-year-old neighborhood watch captain, who was in a sport-utility vehicle. Zimmerman called the police because the boy looked “real suspicious,” according to a 911 call released late Friday. The operator told Zimmerman that officers were being dispatched and not to pursue the boy.

Zimmerman apparently pursued him anyway, at some point getting out of his car and confronting the boy. Trayvon had a bag of Skittles and a can of iced tea. Zimmerman had a 9 millimeter handgun.

The two allegedly engaged in a physical altercation. There was yelling, and then a gunshot.

What made Zimmerman leave his car with his hand gun to pursue a smaller, younger, un-armed black youth?

There aren’t any individuals who own a firearm (myself included) that aren’t told at some point that pursuing someone in the manner Zimmerman did is wrong, illegal, not to mention ripe with felonious intent. You are taught that if someone is in your own home you can defend yourself, but if they flee and are outside you cannot.

That is, unless you live in a state like Florida with a “stand your ground” law. From an op-ed in the Orlando-Sentinel:

I haven’t heard of any fatal disputes over the grocery check-out line, but in 2010 an unarmed man was shot and killed at a park near Tampa in a dispute over skateboarding rules. The victim’s 10-year-old daughter watched her father die. A judge is currently considering whether the shooter merely stood his ground.

In 2008, a 15-year-old boy was killed during a shootout between two gangs in Tallahassee. Nobody was held accountable for the crime because a judge, citing the law, dismissed the charges.

And in January, a former Broward County sheriff’s deputy shot and wounded a homeless man inside a Häagen-Dazs ice cream shop in Miami Lakes. He said the man was threatening him and his family. Police said charges were unlikely in that case as well.

In fact, the number of justifiable homicides has significantly increased since the law went into effect, according to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

From 2000 to 2005, an average of 13 killings by private citizens were deemed justified each year. Between 2006 and 2010 that average increased to 36 killings per year. The highest was in 2009 at 45.

I encouraged my husband to get a concealed carry permit many years ago because of where his business took him, out into areas where police were nowhere in sight and he was virtually alone in the dead of night.

Reading the reports, it’s clear Zimmerman’s actions were premeditated. It’s also clear that Zimmerman went hunting even after being told not to pursue. There is no answer to date of what made Trayvon Martin look “real suspicious” to Zimmerman, except one thing, he was black, which is in the 911 tape clearly. That alone is worthy of invoking a hate crime allegation, yet Florida officials have dragged their feet.

Think Progress has a run-down of all the reports on this tragedy.

The unspeakable motivation of anyone to take a firearm on to the street to confront a citizen screams of a vigilante mentality that ignores respect for human rights, something that plagues our country to its core.

This event also brings to mind the firearms brought to select Tea Party events, with media capturing pictures of people openly carrying pistols to rallies, holstered at their side.

It’s how an escalation of events can end in murder.

Taylor Marsh is the author of the new book, The Hillary Effect – Politics, Sexism and the Destiny of Loss, which is now available in print on Amazon. Marsh is a veteran political analyst and commentator. She has been profiled in the Washington Post, The New Republic, and has been seen on C-SPAN’s Washington Journal, CNN, MSNBC, Al Jazeera English and Al Jazeera Arabic, as well as on radio across the dial and on satellite, including the BBC. Marsh lives in the Washington, D.C. area. This column is cross posted from her new media blog.