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. Jay

    It doesn't matter what he said – the kid is dead and that doesn't make sense! YMO said it best – had it been a black man that shot a white teen – he'd be under the jail by now and everybody knows it!

    March 22, 2012 at 8:00 am | Report abuse |
    • ben

      Not really. Why doesn't the black community have large protest rallies every time a black gangsta kills a 7-11 employee (white or otherwise...doesn't matter) for $22.00? The shooting is Florida is tragic. I am not a racist. I am only pointing out that every other day there is a video of black gangstas committing crimes (stealing Tide?) but no one schedules a rally or is outraged. There seems to be a double-standard of white-kills-black = outrage but black-killls-white = another day in the 'hood. Watch the Washington DC evening news any night to get the latest killing story...but no rallies, no major media intellectual analysis of "the problem" in society. Try for a little balance.And, really, try to think about this imbalance before you jump on the internet and yell racist. My sympathies and prayers to his family.

      March 22, 2012 at 8:20 am | Report abuse |
    • peter gibson

      100% false. The only difference would be a lot less histeria. Probably would not even be on the front page of CNN anymore. You believe so strongly that extreme racism exists that you ignore all the facts and focus only on anything that confirms your belief. It's a natural tendency called confirmation bias - people tend to latch onto things that confirm their belief and ignore or dismiss things that don't.

      March 22, 2012 at 8:48 am | Report abuse |
  2. sjbro

    In my honest opnion; Mr. Zimmerman called this kid a racial slur; hunted the boy down and killed him in cold blood; then lied about it stating it was all self defense. Our society have no place for people like this; hopefully Justice will prevail. But, what's done is done; another one of Florida's children lost to ignorance. How many more will die like this? I'm sure Trayvon Martin and Martin Anderson are in Heaven before God asking Why???

    March 22, 2012 at 8:22 am | Report abuse |
  3. synk

    Of course there was a slur. CNN and Al Sharpton involved? You're damn right there was a slur. Anything to stir the pot into something much bigger than this originally was. It is a sad, sad, issue that this teenager died as a result of something potentially misappropriated that led to his untimely demise. Did Trayvon say or do something to prompt Zimmerman into making a hasty decision because he felt his life was in danger? Maybe, maybe not. Did Zimmerman act hastily and overzealously at whatever Trayvon did? Probably, and he needs to be tried properly. This was a murder, period. Whatever happened that led to it, it is a murder because Trayvon was unarmed and alone. Racial slurs, if there were any, should have absolutely zero to do with the outcome of the trial. Why should Sharpton even get involved? To go after the family of the accused murderer? To try and say that the town where Zimmerman lived is suddenly racist? To try and further the widening racial gap? The latter sure seems to fit the bill.

    March 22, 2012 at 8:23 am | Report abuse |
    • Debbie

      Rev. Al Sharpton is getting involved because the NOBODY is doing anything. This man should not be walking around. If he were a black man that shot a white kid, they would have put him on an empty lot and built a jailhouse around him the day of the shooting. Do you understand that a young man is dead for no apparent reason?

      March 22, 2012 at 8:32 am | Report abuse |
    • Samantha Beasley

      Racial slurs matter because it shows hate crime. Whatever you think this young man did or did not do was no reason for him to be murdered. This lunatic should have been arrested on the spot. The south has an history of racism & mistreatment of blacks, so if people are marching for the murder of an innocent young black man, so be it. A white man, hispanic man, a Jew man, and a Indian man, etc has the same right to march if he feels that his rights have been abused. And especially if some lunatic is taking the law into his own hands & killing their children. Enough is enough, the issue of race & racism should be addressed.

      March 22, 2012 at 1:32 pm | Report abuse |
  4. jerry


    March 22, 2012 at 8:25 am | Report abuse |
    • gary


      March 22, 2012 at 11:40 am | Report abuse |
  5. rerek

    This is a manslaughter case if Trayvon attacked Zimmerman. A murder case if he did not. Either way, Zimmerman was wrong and was profiling and stalking Martin. Maybe Martin attacked Zimmerman because he felt in "Fear of his Life" Zimmerman must pay for his actions. A civil lawsuit must also be filed against Zimmerman and the police department or this will not turn out very nice!! It will be a sad day for many people if justice is not sought in this case!!

    March 22, 2012 at 8:31 am | Report abuse |
  6. Jason

    The authorities (local or federal) NEED to act now! Otherwise every activist in America will have a forum to try to steal the spotlight for their personal gain. That is on either side of this and yes as always there will be sides and lines drawn.

    I grew up in NYC in the 80's so I remember events like Yusuf Hawkins and others. It becomes a powder keg and takes us back to the darkness of race relations in our country. There are alot of different events at play here. However the fact remains that a young man is dead clearly. Also no justice has even been attempted. As this drags on more information will come out and Mr. Zimmerman is in trouble.

    March 22, 2012 at 8:37 am | Report abuse |
  7. Chance

    It's always race when a black dies by another race, however if reversed it is never brought up, a bit of hypocritical at best. It seems they are more bent on racism than on the murder that occurred.

    March 22, 2012 at 8:44 am | Report abuse |
  8. rcs

    Thank you to everyone here who got the point. Racial motivation (and I'm not saying it's not of some significance) is NOT the major issue here. As a black man – It's infuriating that every time a dark person kills or beats a light person or vice-versa – everyone starts screaming "It's racial!" and then tries to piece every pit of anything that supports the idea. Look – one human wrongfully killed another... PERIOD. The public should be concerned why charges have not been brought against this man. If after he is evaluated, or admits racism – then, and only then, should it be a part of the public discussion. Until then, everyone is only projecting their own hate and fears into the public arena. And that helps NOTHING!

    March 22, 2012 at 8:45 am | Report abuse |
    • Robert D

      It matters only in that the cops who should have done their jobs didn't or couldn't because of state law, and the feds can only act if it was racially motivated. Otherwise I agree.

      March 22, 2012 at 9:04 am | Report abuse |
    • Susan

      Listened closely several times. The static, presumably from the wind, would cause so much doubt in court. Though I don't don't know too many people who use the 'F' word as a descriptive adjective right before anything but a slur...Just take it out of Sanford PD jurisdiction and there will be justice for the kid.

      March 22, 2012 at 9:30 am | Report abuse |
    • Marty

      While I agree in principle with your position, proving that the shooter's actions were racially motivated in this particular situation may be the only way of prosecuting the offender. The Sanford Police Department originally decided that the actions of Mr. Zimmerman were in "self defense", and the Federal investigators can only bring charges if this is determined to be a civil rights crime – i.e. "hate crime". Florida's "Stand Your Ground" law needs to be repealed to prevent tragedies like this from happening again, but in the meantime I hope that there will be justice for this teen and his family.

      March 22, 2012 at 9:35 am | Report abuse |
    • Ralph

      iIf that is whata you believe, your on another planet. I'm black and spent 27 years in law enforcement. This was murder motivated by racial bias and negative stereotyping.

      March 22, 2012 at 9:47 am | Report abuse |

      It matters greatly in the sentencing stage of the trial if he is found guilty of a hate crime.

      March 22, 2012 at 10:06 am | Report abuse |
    • Rollo

      Just answer this rcs... How many times have u seen a "Dark" Skinned Man kill a "Light" skinned man and get away. Dark i guess your referring to "Black" and Light is "White" but how many times have u seen a White man kill a black man and nothing happens.. As black people we always seem to forget the wrong or injustice done to us.. It's always one person saying "o no it's not a racial thing".. Another question would Zimmerman opened fire on young white teen??? But the simple fack you used to the terms Dark for Black and Light for White lets me know where your mind is...

      March 22, 2012 at 10:25 am | Report abuse |
    • Nicole

      Yes, becasue of course the killer will readilly admit racism like all racists do and THEN we will know for sure. Dude, get a grip! That is not how it works.

      March 22, 2012 at 10:30 am | Report abuse |
  9. Jason

    @ Ben

    I see your point on the media. That is the media and how it works. You know it and I know. However to say only black gangtas steal tide is ludicrous. There are nasty ignorant people of all races, religions and backgrounds. Since I have personally seen the nature of man in many forums from the inner city to the battlefields around the world. As humans there are some of us that are just bad. Yes some people's behavior help to perpetuate the stereo types that have been created by racist folks. So since it so ingrained in many people to stereotype then it is the easy thing to do. As far as rallies against crime yes those go on everyday but do not get the same coverage. Murder is murder no matter which life is taken it is a tragedy. Our history of race relations in America still to this day has not fully healed.

    March 22, 2012 at 8:47 am | Report abuse |
    • Samantha Beasley

      Oh what, that is to say that all italian men are gangstas, all muslim men are terrorists, all white men are serial killers & rapist, and greedy as hell & like to start wars in other countries, all Jew men are also greedy & caused America's financial troubles. All chinese men own cleaners & chinese resturants, all native american men are alcoholic & all hispanic men are bringing all the drugs into America & killing WHITE men vacationing & visiting Mexico. Give me a damn break. Oh by the way who divided the human people into different races classes anyway & for what purpose?

      March 22, 2012 at 2:03 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Rudy

    The kid knew that this was a gated community and had no business being there. That is the reason he ran when he was confronted with Zimmerman. What is Zimmerman going to assume of a hooded black kid that is fleeing away? Going to visit his father's girl friend? Imagine. What kind of a family is this?

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

      Less we forget the kid had the right to be where he was. He wasn't carrying someone's stereo, Zimmerman did not see him climbing from someone's window. A person, a human was walking down the street. If I were walking and some man approaches in the darkness with clear bad intentions I would not have just just been like "okay mr. Zimmerman" I would be thinking maybe he wants to do me harm and then go into defense mode myself. We will never know now will we?

      March 22, 2012 at 9:03 am | Report abuse |
    • Colleen

      Please be informed BEFORE posting a comment. The boy was with his father, who was visiting his girlfriend. Residents are allowed to have guests. He had every right to be there. He only ran after the strange 220lb man who had been driving along behind following him, got out of his car and started chasing him on foot.

      March 22, 2012 at 9:04 am | Report abuse |
    • Robert D

      What? He had no business being there in a gated community? What kind of family is this? What kind of a thought process is this? I don't understand humans sometimes....where is humanity. Bigots suck.

      March 22, 2012 at 9:10 am | Report abuse |
    • Tony

      He did belong there. His father's girlfriend lives there and that is who they were staying with. How ignorant can you be? It was all over the news, that is where they were staying.

      March 22, 2012 at 9:10 am | Report abuse |
    • streetlawyer

      Rudy, here are the facts. The kid was at the home of his father and his father's girlfriend. He left and went to the store to buy candy and a soda. He came back to the gated community, punched in the code to let himself in and was walking back to his father's place when Zimmerman confronted him. Don't try to tarnish his character with some ludicrous assertions or questions. He had every right to be where he was and Zimmerman was wrong to confront and kill him. He is not an officer, just a man with a gun. Anyone in the kid's position would run like hell!!

      March 22, 2012 at 9:23 am | Report abuse |
    • Shannon

      Wish you had your fact straight before you left this IGNORANT comment. First, he was in the gated community because he was visiting his FATHER who lived there with HIS girlfriend. Second, police spoke to Trayvon's girlfriend who was on the phone with Trayvon when the incident occurred and she asked Trayvon to run and he said NO because he said he would just walk fast and hopefully Zimmerman would leave him alone. You are VERY DISRESPECTFUL and just confirmed you are a RACIST.

      March 22, 2012 at 9:27 am | Report abuse |
    • Atlantalady

      Apparently you haven't been following the story...Daddy and Grilfriend lived in this gated community! What kind of family do you have to ask this question.

      Do you own a hoodie? have you ever worn a hoodie before...Try wearing one todat to see if anyone accuses you of liking like you dont belong...

      Do you have children? What if this was your child...Please thing about that...This was a child walking with skittles and a sweet tea...wouldnt it bother you that you if this Child was your child? if it wouldnt bother you....then apparently you are more ignorant than i am thinking you are!

      March 22, 2012 at 9:43 am | Report abuse |
    • TJ Wright

      You have to be one of the most uninformed, ignorant people I've ever read a comment on this site. Have you truly been paying attention to this story? I seriously doubt it.

      March 22, 2012 at 9:43 am | Report abuse |
    • sk madison

      Maybe I'm not following this story correctly, but I was under the impression that he was visiting his father in this gated community, at his father's fiancee's house.

      March 22, 2012 at 9:54 am | Report abuse |
    • MikeyD

      What kind of family is this? Obviously one with much better breeding than yours. Martin ran because he sensed he was being cased, then chased, by a crazed and dangerous bigot.

      March 22, 2012 at 9:55 am | Report abuse |
    • TAK

      I'm sure, Rudy, that everyone in your trailer park has a perfect nuclear family.

      March 22, 2012 at 10:06 am | Report abuse |
    • Ralph

      Rudy, what would you tell your child to do is someone was following them in a car? I live in a white middle class neighborhood and know enough to tell my 15 year old son not to even trust the local police. .

      March 22, 2012 at 10:07 am | Report abuse |
    • Michael Vick

      In response to what you said, if the kid was running away with a bag of skittle and cup of ice tea, where is self defense come to play? Let me ask another question. If the kid was throwing skittles and ice tea at Zimmerman (which was not the case here), can Zimmerman shoot him dead?

      March 22, 2012 at 10:09 am | Report abuse |
    • D Wise 1

      Rudy, your ignorant response to this issue is the reason why our country has not been able to move beyond the issue of race. "Hooded Black Kid", seems that you are of the mindset of another type that wore the "Hood".

      March 22, 2012 at 10:17 am | Report abuse |
    • Bee

      rudy u r showing your true racist ignorance. How dare you say that this black teenager had no right to be in a gated community. U r the very reason shy racism still prevails.This man lied and killed this child because he was Black, and the Stanford police dept. should be made accountable as well. I see law suit.

      March 22, 2012 at 10:41 am | Report abuse |
    • twright

      It was his neighborhood "smart guy". he lived in that gated community...

      March 22, 2012 at 10:43 am | Report abuse |
    • Samantha Beasley

      There is no sense in arguing with stupidity. Imagine that stupid.

      March 22, 2012 at 2:11 pm | Report abuse |
  11. PghMIke4

    I didn't hear the slur in the unenhanced version, but on AC360 last night they played a version with the low frequency noise removed, and you could hear the slur plain as day.

    Combined with Zimmerman's statement on the 911 call that "they always get away" after being told to back off, and it is pretty clear that Zimmerman's actions were motivated by racial profiling. Certainly there's probably cause to arrest him for murder.

    March 22, 2012 at 8:57 am | Report abuse |
  12. Scottish Mama

    I think that a young man was killed, it should have been investigated. They can tell how far away Zimmermann was from Trayvon. The police blew it and just makes it worse. They should have treated it like it was a homicide as soon as some of these calls came in. The mother and father have to listen to tapes of their son, to get justice for their son? This is total horse manure. People have to go to the streets to get justice now a days. tisk tisk.

    March 22, 2012 at 9:03 am | Report abuse |
  13. Bonnie

    That term is one you might hear in a KKK video. This guy obviously shot a child in cold blood. I don't care if he was purple, throw that killer under a rock. WEIRD

    March 22, 2012 at 9:13 am | Report abuse |

    Our whole fricking country has turned into a bunch of torch and pitchfork goons. He MAY have said it? We don't go around bad mouthing someone based on no evidence. He stated he was attacked by Marvin and the evidence collected so far backs it up. He has the right to pursue if he wants. If you are getting your head punched in and you didn't initiate the fight you have the right to shoot the individual. In every State!

    March 22, 2012 at 9:25 am | Report abuse |
    • Atlantalady

      ok so you mean to tell me a 200 pound man was beat down by a 140 pound child? so his only option was to shot not once and miss but twice...Really?

      You have any kids? Clearly you dont...

      March 22, 2012 at 9:48 am | Report abuse |
    • sk madison

      Didn't he get out of his car to chase the young man down? Maybe privatizing the police force with untrained volunteers is a bad idea. It's looks like the wild west is back, alive and strong in Florida.

      March 22, 2012 at 10:04 am | Report abuse |
  15. Shannon

    Rudy I wish you had your fact straight before you left this IGNORANT comment. First, he was in the gated community because he was visiting his FATHER who lived there with HIS girlfriend. Second, police spoke to Trayvon's girlfriend who was on the phone with Trayvon when the incident occurred and she asked Trayvon to run and he said NO because he said he would just walk fast and hopefully Zimmerman would leave him alone. You are VERY DISRESPECTFUL and just confirmed you are a RACIST.

    March 22, 2012 at 9:29 am | Report abuse |
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