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. Kim

    Where is the audio of the witness calling 911? You can hear the child calling for help. How would your child react if a man followed him....

    March 21, 2012 at 10:42 pm | Report abuse |
  2. davekingpt

    It sound like the kind of background noise you get when something is rubbing against the phone, as might have happened while he was walking. It does not sound like speech. *Until someone suggests what that speech might be.* National Geographic ran a special on the human brain including the topic of speech recognition. They ran an experiment where they played a muffled sound for a room full of people and only a few recognized it to possibly be speech but no one could discern any words. When words were suggested to the listeners they all heard it clearly.

    March 21, 2012 at 10:43 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Black&White Seperatists

    Usama Bin Laden was innocent of any crime as far as we KNOW. He was never even officially charged for anything related to 9/11. He was just a suspect. The two legal American citizens recently murdered in Yemen by our own government...they were suspects, not convicts. Criminals and radicals kill people whom they suspect. Upstanding US citizens demand Justice of the Court!, not justice of the gun.

    March 21, 2012 at 10:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • Josh Renfro

      The only regret I have that Osama was killed was that they didn't slowly drill into his legs and arms with giant, dull screws and then cut off all of his members, one by one, leaving him to bleed to death.

      March 21, 2012 at 10:56 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Citizen

    I didn't hear a racial slur, but what I see is an overweight individual, who may very well have self-esteem issues, driving around his neighborhood with a gun. The gun gives him a sense of power and authority he lacks in his everyday life. When he sees a stranger walking through his neighborhood, he has the chance to use his handgun and live out his self-defense fantasy.

    March 21, 2012 at 10:43 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Lisa

    WOW! Are you kidding me?? Clearly, you're in clinical denial! Disturbing!

    March 21, 2012 at 10:48 pm | Report abuse |
  6. peter


    March 21, 2012 at 10:50 pm | Report abuse |
  7. barbara

    i would have been be very frightened of a neighbor watch walking around my community with a gun. community should have had policies for these people. community itself could be liable. community resident interviewed by anderson admitted seeing zimmerman with gun.

    March 21, 2012 at 10:51 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Louis

    This Zimmerman guy reminds me of volunteer deputy Dwight Schrute from "the office", although Dwight didn't kill anybody

    March 21, 2012 at 10:52 pm | Report abuse |
  9. barbara goldberg

    i would be very frightened of a neigher watch walking around my community with a gun. community should have policies re: neighbor watches. neighbor interviewed by anderson admited seeing zimmerman with gun. community could also be liable.

    March 21, 2012 at 10:54 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Dick Hertz

    Racial slur? Who cares? Murder is murder.

    March 21, 2012 at 10:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • Luigi

      Dick Hertz,
      Zimmerman can attempt to use the "stand your ground" law in Florida if charged with murder. However, because of the slur (if it stands up in court), the Federal Government can charge Zimmerman with violating one of Martin's civil rights (life). "Stand your ground" is not a federal law so it can't be used (AFAIK) as a defense in a federal court.

      March 22, 2012 at 12:07 am | Report abuse |
  11. Josh Renfro

    I dunno, maybe because the shooter was defending himself from another 'groid who though he was some bada$$ ganster-rappa?

    March 21, 2012 at 10:58 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Portland tony

    Since CNN failed to define the Florida Law known as the "Castle Doctrine", I was amazed at the lack of police action towards the shooter. And according to its legislative author, it in no way applies to this case. It was written to codify what force a property owner could use to protect himself from trespassers bent on looting his property following a natural disaster ie a hurricane. That law does not justify vigilante behavior by anyone.

    March 21, 2012 at 11:02 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Jeff

    Who cares if a racial slur was made? If we held people responsible for what comes out of their mouths, ALL politicians and many law enforcement officials would be incarcerated for fraud. I mean really, who cares? If you care then YOU are a racist.

    March 21, 2012 at 11:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jarrett

      That makes no sense whatsoever.

      March 21, 2012 at 11:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bryan Winslow

      are you serious? it matters because it does speak to the intent of the perpetrator of the crime. a hate crime, if i'm not mistaken, supposedly carries more weight.....but then again, we've been told that racism in america is dead, since we have a black president now...o_O..exactly

      March 21, 2012 at 11:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • Luigi

      Whether we are held responsible, by the government, for what we say or not depends on context.

      If for instance, if someone says "Nancy Pelosi is a moron" the government can't charge the person with sedition. It is protected speech.

      If, however, someone yells "fire" in a crowded theater that someone can get into trouble.

      Exactly where is my racist comment in this post?

      March 22, 2012 at 12:02 am | Report abuse |
  14. Johnmac

    Why does that matter? This jerk killed the kid – straight forward and simple. All the police need to do is find the right way to charge hime. Going the hate crime route is criminal in itself

    March 21, 2012 at 11:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • mickey

      why this issue with hate crimes? minorities that are discriminated against need protections.

      March 21, 2012 at 11:49 pm | Report abuse |
  15. aertzc

    He definitely said punks. Listen to it again.

    March 21, 2012 at 11:07 pm | Report abuse |
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