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. eve

    Personally I don't need to hear a racial slur. This kid was hunted down by a "killer" who was happy to shoot him because he didn't like the way he looked, didn't know who he was and had to be up to no good-just because he was black. I did not mention "racist" one time. I am just calling it like i see it. The killer must brought to justice just like the police department who let this young man die without notifying his parents or the public. He was a human being with a family. Who in the hell was in charge? Apparently the police do not take their duties seriously in Florida. Enuff said!!!!!!!! Go get him and throw him in jail.

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

      how right you are

      March 21, 2012 at 11:20 pm | Report abuse |
  2. StuporDave

    If Zimmerman is a racist, he has no business as a neighborhood watchman. If he's not, he used incredibly poor judgment, also making him demonstrably unqualified. Go back to school, learn something, then make something of yourself. Where you are now does no one any good.

    March 21, 2012 at 11:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • GAH

      Who do you think volunteers for neighborhood watch - boy scouts? Many of these people are too dense or lazy to actually become cops, but they still want to eff with people, especially brown people.

      March 21, 2012 at 11:38 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Fritz Hohenheim

    A) I heard less on that tape Anderson played than when the ghosthunters on TV play "ghost voices" o their tape. It's just not clear enough.
    B) Murder is murder, we don't need "hate crimes". Any crime should be treated the same
    C) Even in Nazi Germany you could not be arrested for "not hating the jews enough". How far have we strayed off our path in this country if people are getting slammed for what they think?

    March 21, 2012 at 11:16 pm | Report abuse |
  4. TGR

    Somebody needs to exercise their 2nd amendment rights and enforce the 6th commandment. Or are the NRA and evangelicals out there only doing so AGAINST people of color and not FOR them.

    March 21, 2012 at 11:20 pm | Report abuse |
  5. D.Johnson

    He did not use a slur but that is no reason to shoot someone; I hope he hangs.

    March 21, 2012 at 11:33 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Tortfeasor

    yep he said it, but who really cares, federal hate crime laws are ridiculous and a blatant attempt for the federal government to butt their nose into issues where they have no business. He should be prosecuted for murder in florida. If the feds take him up I'll be rooting for his release.

    March 21, 2012 at 11:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jammaster

      Are you really that dense? Federal hate laws are needed because many times no one is even arrested when mi or ties are murdered. Even when the killer admits to it. The Fed crime laws provide Justice when local officials are too corrupt to do the right thing.
      This case is a prime example.
      Keep in mind, you will be judged by the same rule you judge others. So should one of YOUR relatives become a victim of murder, there will be some fool cheering for the release of the perpetrator. Just like you said you would.

      March 22, 2012 at 2:53 am | Report abuse |
  7. GAH

    aertcz is right - on the tape, the shooter says "***king punks" - and although in real life it doesn't matter much what he said (the poor kid's still gone), it'd make a big difference in court. I think, since the kid's girlfriend explains that he was heading straight home, but the shooter describes the victim as someone who is casing the neighborhood, it's clear that the shooter was interpreting the kid's actions through his own prejudiced perspective, so even without proof of a slur, this is still a racially motivated murder.

    March 21, 2012 at 11:33 pm | Report abuse |
  8. What the .....

    who cares what he Said.....He shot and killed a young man armed who had a bag of skittles and some tea! He is not a cop and he defied the authorities who told him "NOT TO PURSUE!" enough already!

    March 21, 2012 at 11:34 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Steve

    Even if he did, so what? it is not going to bring the victim back.

    March 21, 2012 at 11:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • SevenTX

      So what? If you had watched the video you could answer your own question.

      March 21, 2012 at 11:53 pm | Report abuse |
  10. SuSi

    It's at least manslaughter.. This is confusing to me.. He should have been arrested. The kid wasn't armed and probably was defending himself against Zimmerman. He looks scary to me. You know in Florida they seem to be okay with killing kids. This poor kid was probably scared to death and he had every reason to be. He was shot for being black . This guy Zimmerman is trying to say the kid was high. If he was high then he was even less of a threat!

    March 21, 2012 at 11:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • Realist

      "It's at least manslaughter.. This is confusing to me.. He should have been arrested. The kid wasn't armed and probably was defending himself against Zimmerman. He looks scary to me. You know in Florida they seem to be okay with killing kids. This poor kid was probably scared to death and he had every reason to be. He was shot for being black . This guy Zimmerman is trying to say the kid was high. If he was high then he was even less of a threat!"

      OK, you make no sense. First, you say you are confused, which means you have no idea what you are talking about in the first place. That aside, you say he was "PROBABLY" defending himself.... Ok, thats a good defense, but you are speculating. Now you say he looks scary. I sure hope I dont look scary, that would mean Im guilty in your book. ....Then you say he was shot because he was black. How do you know this? Im curious. If he was white, would we see all this attention? I say, no. You Fail. So does the liberal media.

      March 21, 2012 at 11:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • Realist's mom

      yo, realist, the kid was walking down a street. Zimmerman got out of his car, started following, him, and then pursuing him. What part of that has anything to do with the liberal media? Go have some nuts with your tea.

      March 21, 2012 at 11:58 pm | Report abuse |
  11. NorthernLight

    Do I have to ask the question again,? I could ask about a dead young boy once more ....

    March 21, 2012 at 11:35 pm | Report abuse |
  12. True North

    REGINALD DENNY!!!!!!!!! What would happen to a white person that walked into a predominately black neighborhood, lets say Compton or Watts or Harlem in the middle of the night? Think neighborhood watch would follow them? Or would they just get robbed? Remember Reginald Denny? He was just a white guy driving through town when he got pulled out of his truck and beaten to a pulp.

    March 21, 2012 at 11:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • Steve

      South of me in Detroit a few years ago a family of three were gunned down for making a wrong turn. A wrong turn onto a black gangs "hood". Course you never hear much news about that do you?.

      March 21, 2012 at 11:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jammaster

      Reginald Denny drove I to a riot and was attacked by thugs who should abbé been prosecuted. Does killing this kid make you feel better because Mr Denny was beaten in a riot?
      I think you need your head examained.

      March 22, 2012 at 2:57 am | Report abuse |
  13. Aliyah Allen

    That audio is clear as the sky on a hot summer afternoon. That man DEFINETELY made a racial slur !!!!

    March 21, 2012 at 11:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • Lorelord

      ISnt the fact that he killed someone enough? You people are disgusting with your racial obsession. A life was taken.

      March 22, 2012 at 12:00 am | Report abuse |
  14. ThomYorke

    All murder is a hate crime. The penalties should be strict regardless of what is said or thought. Freedom of speech, freedom to hate, no freedom to kill.

    March 22, 2012 at 12:01 am | Report abuse |
  15. Luigi

    Lorelord, not in Florida it isn't. They have this weird "stand your ground" law that makes it really difficult for a prosecutor to prove murder in some cases where self defense was argued (such as this case).

    However, with the racial slur, it is possible that Zimmerman could be tried in federal court instead of or in addition to state court.

    March 22, 2012 at 12:10 am | Report abuse |
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