March 21st, 2012
03:00 PM ET

Did Trayvon Martin's shooter use a racial slur?

As outrage over the killing of a Florida teenager continues to spread online, social media and news outlets are debating whether the shooter uttered a racial epithet in one of his 911 calls. And if so, what he might have said.

Zimmerman, whom authorities described as white and family members say is Hispanic, said he shot 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in self-defense, according to police. Martin, who was black, was walking to his father’s fiancee’s house in Sanford, Florida, after a trip to a convenience store and was not armed.

Many people at CNN have listened repeatedly to the call but have been unable to reach any consensus on what was said. An audio engineer enhanced the sound on the 911 call but said it was difficult to improve the quality or to replicate the background noise. CNN continues to analyze the tape and consult outside experts.

Sanford police haven’t confirmed what was said on the recording but deny a news report they overlooked a racist remark during the investigation.

“I said we didn’t hear it; however, I am not sure what was said,” Sanford Police Sgt. David Morgenstern told CNN. “So I never said we missed a racist remark.

“I’m not sure what was said. I heard something, but again, not clear as to what was said. I did not hear it until it was pointed out to me.”

In the video above, listen to a nonenhanced recording of relevant audio of Zimmerman’s call at 1:48, after he says, "He's running."

Tell us in the comments: Do you hear a racial slur?

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Filed under: Florida • Justice • Trayvon Martin • U.S.
soundoff (928 Responses)
  1. mom

    I heard it ... who couldn't ...

    March 24, 2012 at 12:02 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  2. Rena

    It was clear and significant; this is clearly a hate crime.

    March 24, 2012 at 1:59 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Shawn

    i am so upset by this crime. Zimmerman should be arrested and tried. No citizens on Patrol should be carrying a weapon and/or using it. This young man could have been acting like a gang banger or Elmo, murder is murder!

    March 25, 2012 at 2:18 am | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Carol

    If you can't hear this you are DEAF!!!

    March 25, 2012 at 3:08 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • Bill

      sounded like fing scones to me. or mabe stones. The question to me would be did the guy attack the person who was the neighbor hood watch. Since the neighborhood watch guy had a gash on the back of his head and a bloody nose I would think he was attacked. Therefor it would be self defense if he was in fear of his life.

      March 25, 2012 at 3:48 pm | Report abuse |
  5. B6

    I absolutlely heard the racial slur. Ask yourself, What makes the 911 operator ask, " Are you following him?" If you listen to the 911 operators voice, his tone changed because he heard something. Wind and movemet. I think he heard the racial slur also. His tone was one of did I just hear what I heard.

    March 25, 2012 at 10:13 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Greg Kells

    It's impossible to say with any certainty what was said. I would assume the F expletive was used, and it seemed like there was a hard K sound after it, but that could have been any number of things, "kids" for example. He was out of breath, and muttering. It was inaudible and there is no way of saying it was a racial slur. This reminds me of the supposed subliminal satanic messages some people claimed to hear in records when they were played backwards.if you want to hear it, it's there. If you listen to it without a preconceived idea of what you are listening for, I doubt you'd hear anything.

    March 26, 2012 at 6:32 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • Peg4Jesus7

      Sounds like "cones" to me. Very hard to tell what he said after the f word.

      But I'm really wondering why does the media constantly show pics of a cute 10-year-old little boy? Wasn't he like 17?! He would look like a man, not this cute, innocent boy. Seems like a media ploy to manipulate the public's opinion to me!!

      If Zimmerman is found guilty by hard evidence, then by all means throw the book at him!! He should pay the full extent of the law for shooting an innocent citizen, no matter what he looked like. But I will not be manipulated by media bias! NBC Today show clipped and cut pieces out of Zimmerman's original 911 call, to make it seem like he brought up Martin's race first (to the dispatcher), but actually the original tape is that the dispatcher asked Zimmerman what was the race of the person he was following. That is *totally* irresponsible reporting, at the very least ... criminal, if Zimmerman is proven to be innocent.

      News is supposed to be unbiased, people! Real journalism is just about dead!!

      April 1, 2012 at 11:10 pm | Report abuse |
  7. TheDantheman

    Some people are interpreting the gibberish with their own racially biased views. Thats the only way one could hear a racial slur.

    April 4, 2012 at 11:07 am | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Maria

    On April 5, 2012, CNN reported that the word is "PUNKS." http://www.cnn.com/2012/04/05/justice/florida-teen-shooting/index.html?hpt=hp_t1

    April 5, 2012 at 7:14 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Government America

    I feel this is among the most important information for me. And i am satisfied studying your article. However should commentary on few normal issues, The site taste is wonderful, the articles is actually excellent : D. Just right process, cheers

    July 11, 2012 at 9:13 am | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Barbara

    I heard that racial slur the day they released the 911 tapes. I could not believe Det. Serino allowed Zimmerman to sit there and say it was "PUNKS" Even Serino knew it was a slur. He followed up with "He`s no punk" He used the "C" word! No doubt in my mind!

    October 16, 2013 at 3:29 pm | Report abuse | Reply
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