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. Storm

    The media seems to be hiding that the shooter is Hispanic. This article does state that the family, who would be the authority on the subject, says he is Hispanic, but this is the first time I have seen it reported anywhere. On the other hand the media is constantly noting that the victim is African-American.

    March 22, 2012 at 9:34 am | Report abuse |
    • BMcGee

      Storm – You haven't read much about it then, or many of the comments. There are black hispanics and white hispanics. Hispanic is not a race.

      March 22, 2012 at 1:24 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Paddy

    I just can't belive the total incompetence of the police in this matter...We wanted to buy a propperty in Florida, we've changed our minds. What kind of society allows such race related crimes.I This racist must be PROSECUTED...If this stems from the Jeb Bush law then I think his hopes for a GOP nomonation in 2016 are down the tubes. SHAME! SHAME! SHAME!

    March 22, 2012 at 9:44 am | Report abuse |
  3. Get a Forensic Linguist!

    If this crime was racially focused, this tape proves nothing. The audio needs to be sent to a forensic linguist who can PROPERLY analyze the data. To all the law enforcement and former law enforcement comment posters: you are not forensic linguists nor do you know the facts of this case more than any other poster.

    Personally, I do not believe this was racially motivated. With the entire audio that is given here by CNN there are no other indications that it was based on race; the caller never mentioned race in his description. In regards to the actual word in focus I think the main indication is the vowel; it was more of a mid central than a high back: "uh" vs. "oo" such as fun vs. tune.

    Regardless, an expert is needed with the proper training and equipment. Or it could be sent to Hofstra University's Forensic Linguistics Masters program!

    March 22, 2012 at 10:16 am | Report abuse |
  4. Jeffrey Hare

    OK, my job is a pediatric respiratory Therapist in an ICU. Case in point you have to tone out the noise of the ventilators, monitors, TV, people talking when you listen to the kids breath sounds. I heard loud and clear what Zimmerman said first time CNN played last night on Anderson Cooper. I'm white, this isn't about race, it's about justice.

    March 22, 2012 at 10:16 am | Report abuse |
  5. Michael Vick

    To e.rae, yes, the kid attacked Zimmerman with a bag of skittle and splashed him with ice tea. So that means Zimmerman can blow this kid's brain out. But do you see why self defense is absurd? I hardly consider skittle and ice tea threatening.

    March 22, 2012 at 10:20 am | Report abuse |
  6. Michael Vick

    I got to tell you, I love skittles. But I didn't know skittles can be threatening. I guess I have to be really careful next time I walk on the street of Florida with a bag of skittles. Even if the kid was throwing skittles and splashing ice tea at Zimmerman, I don't see how Zimmerman can shoot him with a gun.

    To me, this was a cold-blooded execution.

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

      well if you are the real michael vick you ought to know about killing look what you did to those innocent dogs that you killed

      March 22, 2012 at 10:35 am | Report abuse |
  7. Normal Causasian Male

    Anyone that is suggesting this was racially motivated, please provide just one piece of evidence that would in any way suggest that the shooter was motivated by the kid's race. So far, the only thing that all of this racial out rage is based on is that the fact that the shooter was light skinned and the victim was dark skinned.

    March 22, 2012 at 10:35 am | Report abuse |
  8. scoped

    The alleged murdering security guard SPOKE those nasty words. I heard the tapes on CNN and YES, no doubt he said what everyone knows he said. Maybe some people don't know what it means; but I'm old school and hell yes, he said it. Period. The south, all over again.

    March 22, 2012 at 10:36 am | Report abuse |
    • Get a Forensic Linguist!

      Are you an expert? Or should we just take your word for it? Absolutely nothing is conclusive in these comments but surely you can't be that self-centered that you think there is no doubt it could not have been racially motivated.

      Also, because this article opened with the question of a racial slur then INSTANTLY your mind went into "where can I find that racial slur" mode. If you had just heard the tape without that prompt then surely you'd have a different view.

      Perhaps this was racially motivated. However, there is no PROOF from this recording that there was anything racist happening. Maybe you should invest in becoming a bit more "new school" and open minded to technology solving problems, such as an analysis of this recording.

      March 22, 2012 at 11:11 am | Report abuse |
  9. Adam

    So what word was said?

    March 22, 2012 at 10:37 am | Report abuse |
    • Myrna

      It sounds to me like "f-ing punks"... but I still believe Zimmerman was racial profiling; even if he is Hispanic. Unfortunately, there is hatred in every race.

      March 22, 2012 at 10:55 am | Report abuse |
  10. scoped

    Hawaii, the "kid" was not armed!!!!!! If you think what you think about CNN, why go on line and read the stories? You clearly seem to think you have all the answers.

    March 22, 2012 at 10:44 am | Report abuse |
  11. William


    March 22, 2012 at 10:50 am | Report abuse |
  12. Nick

    I do audio editing. They need to get an audio engineer with experience with FORENSIC ANALYSIS not "audio design specialist" who produces news jingles for a living. BTW in terms of audio suites, that room looks no more "sophisticated" than any of the other 100+ audio edit suites at any of the other TV and film studios in New York.

    March 22, 2012 at 10:51 am | Report abuse |
  13. Guest

    Want to end racism? Stop turning every incident involving a black person into a racial issue. This is one of the saddest stories I have heard but it is an issue of someone too trigger happy rather than a white guy targeting black kids.

    March 22, 2012 at 10:52 am | Report abuse |
    • NE

      There's an important reason for people to look at this as a racial issue: if it was a racially motivated confrontation, the Feds can try Zimmerman for a hate crime... I think that would supercede the Florida law about standing your ground.

      March 22, 2012 at 11:36 am | Report abuse |
    • guest

      I agree with another guest writer. Stop making everything about race and you'll end the mind set of always looking to label the situation black/white. This is a human race issue and if we don't do something there will always be a divide in our nation. The law does not afford a person the right to give chase and harrass someone then say they feel threatened. GZimmerman was absolutely safe in his vehicle, he had NO duty getting out and confronting anyone. This is 2nd degree murder and at best voluntary manslaughter. TMartin was just a kid(scared kid) after he saw this idiot with a gun. Tell me how this could have been different? Zimmerman had not right to chase Trayvon then Trayvon is the one who ends up dead?! Just outrageous. The neigbor also blows away the self defense story. He is on air saying Zimmerman was fed up!

      March 22, 2012 at 11:43 am | Report abuse |
  14. twright

    To me the issue is not about racial slurs but about the value of human life. When Michael Vick was involved with dog fighting, some people in this country were so "appauled" and outraged that they called for this guy to do jail time. I mean folks went crazy. Now we have a young man being shot for no apparent reason and the perpetrator goes free the same night. I guess the young mans family should have called him their "pet" and zimmerman would have been arrested. truly a sad day for this country.

    March 22, 2012 at 10:58 am | Report abuse |
  15. Ralph

    A law that appears to be facially neutral but has a disparate impact on a certain segment of a population violates the Equal Protection Clause. I'm certain most Black residents in that area cannot obtain a Concealed Weapons Permit, but is routinely approved for White residents by the White police chief. Here Zimmeran had a run in with police and even though it was dropped, he should not have been approved for a CCW (if he even had one) because he's already established he was violent against the police.

    March 22, 2012 at 10:58 am | Report abuse |
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