Today, ColorOfChange launched a campaign calling on the Department of Justice to investigate the killing of Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman.
Please read the email we sent to members below, and join us in our demand that the DOJ take over the case, arrest Zimmerman and launch an independent investigation into the Sanford police department’s unwillingness to protect Martin’s civil rights.
Dear ColorOfChange.org members,
Three weeks ago, 17-year old Trayvon Martin was gunned down by self-appointed neighborhood watch captain George Zimmerman. Despite Zimmerman admitting to following, confronting, and killing Trayvon, he has yet to be arrested or charged with any crime.1
Just minutes before Trayvon was killed, Zimmerman had called police stating that Trayvon looked “suspicious.” Trayvon was unarmed and walking back to his father’s home in Sanford, Florida when Zimmerman accosted him.
At the crime scene, Sanford police botched their questioning of Zimmerman, refused to take the full statements of witnesses, and pressured neighbors to side with the shooter’s claim of self-defense.2 As it turns out, Sanford’s police department has a history of failing to hold perpetrators accountable for violent acts against Black victims and the police misconduct in Trayvon’s case exemplifies the department’s systemic mishandling of such investigations.3 And now, the State Attorney’s office has rubber-stamped the Sanford police’s non-investigation, claiming that there is not enough evidence to support even a manslaughter conviction.4
Trayvon’s family and hundreds of thousands of people around the country are demanding justice.5 Please join us in calling on the Department of Justice to take over the case, arrest Trayvon’s killer, and launch an independent investigation into the Sanford police department’s unwillingness to protect Trayvon’s civil rights. It takes just a moment:
Walking home from the store shouldn’t cost you your life, but when Black youth are routinely assumed to be violent criminals, being randomly killed is a constant danger.6 Before Zimmerman decided to get out of his parked car — gun in tow — to pursue Trayvon on foot that night, he called the police to identify Trayvon as a “suspicious person” — apparently because he was wearing a hoodie and walking too slowly in the rain for Zimmerman’s liking. Despite being instructed not to follow Trayvon, Zimmerman proceeded to confront and fatally shoot the boy in the chest within a matter of minutes.7
The case has been compromised from the beginning. When Sanford police arrived on the scene, Zimmerman was first approached by a narcotics detective — not a homicide investigator — who “peppered him with questions” rather than allowing him to tell his story without prompting. Another officer “corrected” a witness giving a statement that she’d heard Trayvon cry for help before he was shot, telling her she had heard Zimmerman instead.8 And beyond the questions of professional competence or even the police’s disregard for the facts, Florida’s notorious “Shoot First” law takes a shooter’s self-defense claim at face value — incentivizing law enforcement not to make arrests in shooting deaths that would lead to murder charges in other states.9
Sanford has a history of not prosecuting when the victim is Black. In 2010, the white son of a Sanford police lieutenant was let go by police after assaulting a homeless Black man outside a downtown bar. And, in 2005, a Black teenager was killed by two white security guards, one the son of a Sanford Police officer. The pair was arrested and charged, but a judge later cited lack of evidence and dismissed both cases.10
Please join us in calling on the Department of Justice to arrest Trayvon’s killer and launch an investigation into the Sanford police department’s mishandling of the case and when you do, ask your friends and family to do the same:
Thanks and Peace,
— Rashad, Gabriel, Dani, Matt, Natasha, Kim and the rest of the ColorOfChange.org team
March 19th, 2012
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1. “Witnesses in Trayvon Martin death heard cries before shot,” Miami Herald, 03-15-12
2. “Orlando Watch Shooting Probe Reveals Questionable Police Conduct,” ABC News, 03-13-12
3. “Trayvon Martin Case Salts Old Wounds And Racial Tension,” Huffington Post, 03-14-12
4. “Police: No Grounds For Arrest in Trayvon Martin’s Death,” WESH-2 Orlando, 03-16-12
5. “Trayvon Martin Family Seeks FBI Investigation of Killing by Neighborhood Watchman,” ABC News, 03-18-12
6. “Ramarley Graham: NYPD Slays Unarmed Black Teen as Outrage over Targeting of People of Color Grows,” Democracy Now!, 02-08-12
7. “Trayvon Martin would be alive if Neighborhood Watch rules followed,” Orlando Sentinel, 03-14-12
8. See reference 2.
9. “Teen’s death suggests review of ‘Stand Your Ground Law’ needed,” Tallahassee Democrat, 03-16-12
10. “Five years since Florida enacted ‘stand-your-ground’ law, justifiable homicides are up, Tampa Bay Times, 10-17-10