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. Jason

    So help me figure this out. By Zimmerman's own words he makes clear that Trayvon is trying to get away from him. In other words, trying to avoid a confrontation. Zimmerman admits to pursuing him and clearly disregards the 911 operators statement not to pursue. Shortly after the unarmed kid is shot dead.

    If Zimmerman avoids prosecution by claiming "self defense" it will be crystal clear that it's alright to commit murder of unarmed persons so long as a) you claim you felt "threatened", b) there's no video or direct witness of the killing itself. Wow, that's just stunning.

    Last year the Florida Department of Law Enforcement claimed that FL crime was at lowest level in 40 years, including a significant reduction in murder. In other news, self defense killings in FL on the rise as more and more citizens learn to "defend" themselves (from a murder rap).

    March 21, 2012 at 3:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • Chris

      Your post certainly hit the nail on the head. I can't fathom how this is not a prosecutable offense.

      March 21, 2012 at 3:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • jps

      Exactly, Jason. Comment of the day in my book.

      March 21, 2012 at 4:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • stan

      1. zimmerman was told not to follow the kid by 911 dispatch. thats not a lawful order from the police, but a request by a telephone operator. it's totally irrelevant to the question of justifiable homicide vs murder.

      2. YES. zimmerman did chase the kid. thats not in dispute. he wanted to ask the kid who he was and what he was doing int he community.

      3. some moments later, zimmerman was on the ground with a bloodied head, and the kid was on top of him and they were fighting over the gun. this is key. at that instant zimmerman had a credible fear for his life, so he used lethal force to defend himself. it doesnt matter what happened previously. it doesnt matter that he chased after the kid. at the moment of the killing, he had a legitimate fear for his life. thats what makes it justifiable homicide.

      March 21, 2012 at 4:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • Linda Luttrell

      Hmmm, Jason, seems Florida needs to more clearly define the difference between self-defense and murder...also, instead of a criminal check before you're allowed to carry a gun, it seems after this case has come to light, a strong PSYCH eval; might be in order. Sure would slow down the process!

      March 21, 2012 at 5:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dan

      Stan, it sounds to me like Trayvon had reason to fear for HIS life and was trying to get the gun away from him. So what's self defense against someone who is in self defense mode?

      March 21, 2012 at 9:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • HK

      Well Said Jason. Thanks!

      March 22, 2012 at 1:04 am | Report abuse |
    • Jammaster

      Stan has been watching too many TV cop shows while smoking crack.

      March 22, 2012 at 1:32 am | Report abuse |
  2. FFFF

    Could've been adopted...

    March 21, 2012 at 3:29 pm | Report abuse |
  3. FFFF

    The Liberal Media foaming at the mouth to paint Zimmerman as a white male......

    March 21, 2012 at 3:30 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Beavis

    It's not the part about "a...holes" that is under question, it's the part shortly after that. I'm pretty sure he says "these f-ing punks".

    March 21, 2012 at 3:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kim

      Beavis, that is EXACTLY what he says. I heard it the first time – clear as a bell, just in hushed tone. Why is there even a question?

      March 21, 2012 at 10:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • Janie

      I heard the exact same thing: "punks". Clear as a bell. I cannot believe people are trying to turn that into something else. He mumbled it, but it was audible "punks".

      March 21, 2012 at 10:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • pazke

      I thought it sounded like "punks", also and not the word others are hearing.

      March 22, 2012 at 12:03 am | Report abuse |
    • Sgphotomom

      I'm glad I'm not the only person who hears the word "punks"!!

      March 22, 2012 at 3:55 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Lee

    Wow someone killed someone and may have said a racial word. That's never happened before. And it is far worse than when we accidently drop a drone bomb on some "collateral" children and innocent people. it's amazing the priorities in this country.

    March 21, 2012 at 3:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • jps

      yeah, we should ignore all other incidents that don't involve war. Or maybe we should have you screen all reports to make sure they are newsworthy. Troll.

      March 21, 2012 at 4:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jammaster

      Lee, what you men it that it's never happened to anyone in your family.....yet.

      March 22, 2012 at 1:34 am | Report abuse |
  6. Joe

    It sounds like he whispers "f***in punks" after the :32 mark. Doesn't seem racial to me. Guy still belongs in jail.

    March 21, 2012 at 3:33 pm | Report abuse |
  7. John

    It sounds like he said "these f-ing punks". Still, it should have never have happened. This guy cannot get away with this.

    March 21, 2012 at 3:33 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Godstar

    How can we hear a slur if you bleep it out?

    March 21, 2012 at 3:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • Amie

      it's not when he says A holes...it comes later.... right before the dispatcher asks him "are you following him" . It's a RACIAL slur.

      March 21, 2012 at 3:35 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Amie

    It's ridiculous..it's as if CNN is attempting to "prove" he didn't actually say this....On other articles, I have been able to post the slur I heard, BUT, CONVENIENTLY on this ONE article where they've finally brought it into question, I can't post any variation of it!

    March 21, 2012 at 3:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • stan

      does it really matter if he did? if i was wrestling on the ground with some guy for a gun after he poped me in the nose i'd probably call him every name int he book if I thought it would help.

      March 21, 2012 at 4:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • JoJo

      Yes, it matters only to the people who want to see him charged. But in reality, who cares?

      March 21, 2012 at 4:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • Nolan

      It matters because if a racial slur is used, it is the necessary motivation needed to suspect a hate crime...a federal crime which overides Florida law...

      March 21, 2012 at 9:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • Tony

      The thing I find interesting is that Zimmerman is claiming self defense. Wasn't Zimmerman the one who followed and then approached the young man with a gun while touting a threatening tone of voice. If Zimmerman approached me, while I was simply walking down the sidewalk/street, in the manner that has been described, I would have done the same as Martin.

      Can you claim self defense when it was your action that caused another to initiate self defense?

      March 21, 2012 at 5:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • Linda Luttrell

      Good point! I still think this tape will force investigators to look much more closely at this case. It's pretty damning in and of itself.

      March 21, 2012 at 5:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • marywestmacott

      Florida's stand your ground law says that if you are a place where you reasonable have the right to be, which in this case would include a street, then you have the right to defend yourself – including excessive force than what was used against you.

      March 21, 2012 at 6:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dan

      Exactly. How can he claim self defense when he was already on the phone with police and they told him not to approach him?

      March 21, 2012 at 9:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • Marisa

      The Stand Your Ground law does not even begin to apply here. How the police could misapply the law like this is corruption. Pure and simple. Arrest the police along with Zimmerman.

      March 21, 2012 at 10:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • KR

      Tony, you are not the only person asking that question. I wonder how many people out there agree with Zimmermans action's. Senseless!

      March 22, 2012 at 12:52 am | Report abuse |
    • Scott

      @stan he said it before he was "wrestling on the ground" and really? You think racial slurs would somehow help you during hand to hand fighting? If these are the words that come to mind during such a fight....you might be a racist. Sorry buddy, but it did not sound like any fighting was going on yet and it would not be an excuse anyway.

      March 21, 2012 at 5:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • Not Likely

      Neat. That's not what was happening. All you have to do is listen to the call to verify that.

      March 21, 2012 at 9:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • pazke

      I don't think it matters, either, because I think Zimmerman is guilty of murder, regardless. But what you should realize is he said it before he caught up to Martin. At that point he still has no reason to be "defending" himself.

      March 21, 2012 at 11:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • OrlandoGuy

      He said this before the altercation when he was in pursuit of Trayvon.

      March 22, 2012 at 12:06 am | Report abuse |
    • JUGGERNAUT

      if you did not run after that guy with a gun, he will not pop you on the nose.

      March 22, 2012 at 1:32 am | Report abuse |
    • jboh

      If you take your head out of Rush's dung heap, you might get the manure out of your ears. Otherwize, you are simply in denial. I can hear it w/partial hearing loss. Murder period.

      March 22, 2012 at 7:10 am | Report abuse |
    • Jason

      That was before he approached him and wrestled, which shows some of his anger in which he probably approached the kid with. If you go looking for for a fight you mentally prepare. Sounds like Zimmerman was convinced before the the first words to Trayvon was spoken.

      March 22, 2012 at 8:51 am | Report abuse |
    • profart

      That's not when he used this language. This is when Zimmerman is still following the boy- something he was told not to do.

      March 22, 2012 at 10:59 am | Report abuse |
    • sly

      Stan, I guess you haven't been following the story. He said the slur on the 911 call before even chasing the guy, and if he said ANY racial slurs the Fed's are allowed to press charges, overriding the NRA Law.

      So ... if you are Zimmerman, it does matter, in fact, it's the difference between life and Zimm being toasted in the Florida Electric Chair.

      I'd say it is thus somewhat relevant, right?

      March 22, 2012 at 1:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • tomalley

      it matters because he called him that before he confronted him. he made up his mind what he thought he was before he got anywhere near him. it's disgusting.

      March 22, 2012 at 1:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dennis

      Yeah but the problem with what your saying is he wasn't fighting him when he called him that he was walking down the street away from him this kid needs to go to prison for this

      March 22, 2012 at 1:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • DVelop

      Stan...he used the racial slur before any chasing or wrestling went on. What are you talking about?

      March 22, 2012 at 2:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • Barbara

      Stan, this was on the 911 tape, before Zimmerman got out of his car to confront Martin who was going about his lawful business. Zimmerman had already said that they always get away. he didn't want this "supsicious" guy to get away, and he wanted to be the Big Hero. Wonder if he likes the role he created for himself?

      March 22, 2012 at 4:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • jon

      you realize this was before zimmerman confronted the boy right? so your comment is completely wrong.

      March 22, 2012 at 6:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dwoods

      You a racist.

      March 23, 2012 at 3:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • Guest

      I heard it too Amie, I don't know why CNN is doing this.

      March 21, 2012 at 7:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • HAWAII

      nonsense, CNN is as liberal, pro AA agenda as you can get.
      There was No story until they took it.

      Maybe clean your ears, wipe the Persecution Complex out of your eyes.

      March 22, 2012 at 12:18 am | Report abuse |
    • Marion

      Amie wrote:

      "It's ridiculous..it's as if CNN is attempting to "prove" he didn't actually say this....On other articles, I have been able to post the slur I heard, BUT, CONVENIENTLY on this ONE article where they've finally brought it into question, I can't post any variation of it!"

      That is not the impression I got from cnn/s Gary Tuchman.....I thought just the opposite....that are trying to prove he did say that. In fact, when they enhanced the recording and gave us a clue as to what they think was said, I would not have recognized those words if they had not done that. but once they did, and kept enhancing it, I definitely think that is what he said. This is key to this case.....if he used that racial slur, it is a "hate crime", not just "self defense". The next thing he said that was clear was: "These a**h**les always get away with this". That does somewhat support the probable racial slur that preceded it. Then you have the claims of a white neighbor saying that 8 robberies occured in that neighborhood and the "majority" were young black males. Put two and two together.......Zimmerman was on the lookout for young male blacks with that in mind. People are isolating the known facts and not taking into consideration all the other known facts and statements by witnesses.....which is what the police should have been investigating. Then you have the same white middle aged male neighbor who now claims the didn't know Zimmerman had a gun. Yeah, right!

      March 22, 2012 at 2:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • laura barto

      I agree! I'd take the stand on that!

      March 22, 2012 at 5:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • AgönyFlips

      C00NS

      March 22, 2012 at 5:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • SeriousBlaque

      This is sad that in todays times we still have to do this racial thing. It is fact not fiction that this Zimmerman guy said the word C00n. Why is he not been even questioned? Where is he? So in today's time we have to answer to everybody who approaches us? Zimmerman's friend said that Trayvon should have just answered Zimmerman and left it at that. Well (Idiot) Your friend was sooooo charged up it wouldn't have mattered what he told him. Classic case of Stranger Danger!!! This man is a criminal why does he have a gun?????? In public? Why hasn't he been questioned??

      March 22, 2012 at 5:36 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Joseph

    Sounds to me like he said Fu**in Punks, but that's just me.
    @ alexander – after the getting away bit he says something under his breath

    March 21, 2012 at 3:34 pm | Report abuse |
  11. twilliam

    Kid is dead and the other ruined his own life and all CNN can woryy about is if a racial slur was uttered?

    March 21, 2012 at 3:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jammaster

      Using a racial slur while killing someon makes it a hate crime punishable by federal statues. These were put into place because local authorities often turned a blind eye black victims of murder. This is one of the easons the FBI crime stats show a disproportionate number of black victims and white assailants. All too often police do not make an arrest when blacks are victims of white criminals.

      This case is a prime example.

      March 22, 2012 at 1:39 am | Report abuse |
  12. Jon

    Yup he definitely said, "F$%^ing c00n$."

    March 21, 2012 at 3:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • Lila

      Yup that's exactly what he said. Can't believe this site asks then doesn't let us respond.

      March 21, 2012 at 3:38 pm | Report abuse |
  13. YMO

    if you listen to the tape you hear the child screaming for help and then the gunshot and then silence. This was murder. Point Blank. If a black grown man had shot a white child point blank in the chest who was screaming for help...would he be free right now? The sheriff needs to be investigated for the handling of this case.

    March 21, 2012 at 3:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jammaster

      Yes, the sheriff should be held responsible. Regardless of the race of the I dividuaos involved, this case needs to reinvestigated by an outside authority. Zimman has been plowed to destroy evidence on his clothes and body.

      March 22, 2012 at 1:41 am | Report abuse |
  14. Guff

    you must have heard a different one then I just did

    March 21, 2012 at 3:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • Brandon

      This is crazy... you can't tell what he is saying even when the digitally enhance the audio. I have listened to it at least 50 times and still can't understand what he is saying. Everyone just wants to make this guy raciest. I think it has more to do with Zimmerman's desire to be "the man" and prove that he is the all might neighborhood watchman that has power when he doesn't. That is what led Zimmerman to confront him and that is ultimately why Zimmerman killed the kid when the kid didn't respect his authority.

      March 22, 2012 at 4:00 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Snagglepuss

    I'm on Martin's side here, but I don't think a slur was spoken. To me it sounds like Zimmerman, with a heavy breath, said something to the effect of "f–king punks".

    March 21, 2012 at 3:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • Not Likely

      It's clearly a crisp 'c' sound, not a 'p'.

      March 21, 2012 at 9:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • justsaynotovigilantes

      That's what I hear, but also agree that the shooter is a menace and should be vigorously prosecuted.

      March 21, 2012 at 9:12 pm | Report abuse |
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