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. white zimmerman

    exactly u idiot he's white.

    March 21, 2012 at 3:37 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Jennifer

    Listen to the section after he says that the boy is running. He sounds like he's swearing under his breath, "f-ing c–ns". That's not a real common term anymore, but it is a slur.

    March 21, 2012 at 3:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • liz

      I have hearing aids and I could hear it.

      March 21, 2012 at 4:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • steve

      are you blind too?

      March 21, 2012 at 8:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • DeShantee

      thanks for your honesty. I was starting to think I was crazy.

      March 22, 2012 at 5:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • Keith

      I agree, thats what it sounds like, an old slur but a slur non the less.

      March 21, 2012 at 4:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • no

      i hear that "slur" all the time. It is a pretty common term everyone

      March 21, 2012 at 5:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • Marlene

      I cannot believe anyone would not know this slur..this was common since the 60's when I grew up South of Detroit, I am white, and this INFURIATES me that this racism still continues. I'm ashamed to be white.

      March 22, 2012 at 1:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • DZA

      Yeah, I heard it too... Lots of hard "K" or "C" sounds with an "f" at the beginning. This Zimmerman guy should be up for this racially motivated murder...

      March 21, 2012 at 5:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jammaster

      Only one word in the English language fits in this sentence. It starts with a c and rhymes with"moon".
      Last time I checked, this was a slur.

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


      March 21, 2012 at 10:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ned


      March 22, 2012 at 1:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sgphotomom

      Insert punks just as well.

      March 22, 2012 at 3:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • paul


      March 22, 2012 at 5:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • Marisa

      I think it's used down south still quite a bit.

      March 21, 2012 at 10:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • Seth Colton

      Yeah, it is a common term used in the south alot and there is NO question about what it is. I laughed at the experts who were digitally analyzing it last night, slowing it down, lowering the the bass and putting it a loop, repeating it over and over. They were saying there was no way they could understand what he was saying and I'm like those guys have got to be lying or totally deaf!

      March 22, 2012 at 11:52 am | Report abuse |
    • Dwoods

      I so agree with you. I listened once and heard it ad plain as day. He even used th a phrase of "F-ing C**n" so it makes it easier to hear. To all the racist sorry but punk does not sound the same. I commend the white people who are big enough to say they heard the slur.

      March 23, 2012 at 3:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • ray

      Nope, people don't say that down south!!!

      March 22, 2012 at 2:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • Down South

      You are obviously not from the South! That is a racist slur if I ever heard one and it would probably be best you stay in the cave you live in if you think that is acceptable in the South

      March 22, 2012 at 5:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • SG

      Yeah, by white people. I am embarassed to be white sometimes.

      March 22, 2012 at 6:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • jerry


      March 22, 2012 at 8:28 am | Report abuse |
    • scoped

      Thank you Jennifer!!!!

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

      Jennifer, I live about an hour north of Sanford in a much more rural area, and I, sadly, hear that slur quite often.

      March 22, 2012 at 11:04 am | Report abuse |
    • Johan Goetz

      He is muttering to himself in Spanish.

      March 22, 2012 at 6:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • fofotavour

      Agree, this is what I too heard.

      March 22, 2012 at 7:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • Chris

      It's not a common expression among decent folk, but...

      March 22, 2012 at 7:39 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Amie

    They didn't ask you to post new racial slurs of your own. They ask you if you heard his!

    March 21, 2012 at 3:38 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Jim

    Its sounds like he says F ing coat but its basically inaudible. Now I have seen reports that an eye witness saw the young man on top of Mr. Zimmerman striking him and Mr. Zimmerman yelling for help. It is also reported that Mr. Zimmermans back was wet, covered with grass and he was bleeding when the police arrived. If these are facts the media needs to report these facts and not stoke the flames of this terrible incident. it should be obvious that the police would like to arrest Mr.. Zimmerman if they could.

    March 21, 2012 at 3:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • Maybe

      Maybe he was giving a play-by-play and letting the 911 operator know that he was copulating with a coat.

      March 21, 2012 at 3:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • Puhleez

      No Jim. He says "effen koons" . Stop making excuses. Also, there are no reports of Trayvon on top of Zimmerman. Just another right wing fairy tale. However , their are audio recordings of Trayvon screaming for his life before George shot him. Oh, and how do we know George didn't roll around in the grass and injure himself. You know, since no one was there to see.

      March 21, 2012 at 3:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • mike tampa

      The point is he ran after him and confronted him. He had no right to do that after the dispatcher told him he did not need to follow him. He is not a cop, no citizen has to listen to him

      March 21, 2012 at 3:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dave

      There are no witnesses saying that the kid was on top of Zimmerman. Zimmerman was 240 pounds. The kid was 140. At 28 years old, Zimmerman was not an old man. Even if Zimmerman suspected the teen and wanted to hold him until the police came, he is not allowed by law to put his hands on the kid. If he does, the kid has the right to try and defend himself. Zimmerman was not the police and didn't even have any training as a neighborhood watch captain. Frank Taaffe, George Zimmerman's neighbor and former watch captain, said in his interview with CNN's Suzanne Malveaux, that black males were burglarizing the neighborhood even though they didn't catch them. Racial profiling. If you were black and male walking in that neighborhood, from the viewpoint of Frank Taaffe and his neighbor George Zimmerman, you were suspect.

      March 21, 2012 at 3:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • HAWAII

      A Voice of Reason!! (and No, I don;t think that puts you in the Klan!)

      Meanwhile, remember all the NAACP organized frenzy for the Heads of the Duke U Lacrosse Team Gang Rapists??......until it came out w/ 100% certainty (Not a miscarriage of Justice Loophole) that **SHE LIED**? This reminds me of it all over again.

      March 22, 2012 at 12:23 am | Report abuse |
    • Marion

      Jim wrote:

      "Its sounds like he says F ing coat but its basically inaudible. Now I have seen reports that an eye witness saw the young man on top of Mr. Zimmerman striking him and Mr. Zimmerman yelling for help. It is also reported that Mr. Zimmermans back was wet, covered with grass and he was bleeding when the police arrived. If these are facts the media needs to report these facts and not stoke the flames of this terrible incident. it should be obvious that the police would like to arrest Mr.. Zimmerman if they could."

      I have been following all news sources and media reports of this case and heard nothing like what you just said. What "reports" are you listening to? Two women saw Zimmerman on top of Trayvon, not the opposite. No one saw Trayvon striking Zimmerman with Trayvon on top. These two women said Trayvon was lying face down and Zimmerman was on top straddling him....and when they asked if he needed help he didn't answer them and then told them to call police. These two women also reported that Zimmerman stood up and was pacing beside the the impression he was very nervous about what he just did.

      March 22, 2012 at 2:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • Cameo

      I have been following closely and there has not been any witness that i have heard that says it was zimmerman that was on the ground. 5 witnesses have said that zimmerman had trayvon pinned down. In fact two women that actually went out and saw zimmerman who have both said repeatedly there was no scruffle because they would have heard more then what they saw and heard said it was zimmerman as the aggressor and that he had the boy on the ground and was straddled over him on his knees after he had shot him.

      March 22, 2012 at 5:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • JW

      That was Zimmerman's report you heard I'm sure. Yeah, he tricked Zimmerman into following him and then attacked him with skittles in hand and girlfriend on the phone. Get a hearing aid its clear as day what he said.

      March 22, 2012 at 11:10 pm | Report abuse |
  5. JoJo

    A moving target is more challenging.

    March 21, 2012 at 3:39 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Jon

    @Alexander No, that's not it. If you listen to it, after "Sh-t, he's running." but before he's asked by the dispatcher if he's following Trayvon. It's somewhat under his breath, but still pretty clear: "F–king c–ns."


    March 21, 2012 at 3:39 pm | Report abuse |
  7. don


    March 21, 2012 at 3:40 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Linda Luttrell

    The screen showed "...hole," but what I kept hearing was a definite BEEP, the same kind of beep TV shows bleep out obscenities. Hmmm...any chance the public will get to hear the enhanced copy of this tape or will it doctored in any way? I certainly hope not as this tape is key to getting to the shooter's motives here and answers for this family and the public. Let us hear the complete truth, once and for all!

    March 21, 2012 at 3:41 pm | Report abuse |
  9. JoJo

    Guess he picked the wrong Mexican to mess with. Ooops!

    March 21, 2012 at 3:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • Revolution

      Actually it the Mexican that messed with the boy. The boy was apparently afraid of him. Note to black parents in Florida – don't let your young sons walk around late in hoodies without lots of witnesses. Note to black parents not in Florida – do not move to Florida.

      March 22, 2012 at 1:23 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Jackelope

    I'm still confused as to what they're trying to portray here.......He is obviously Hispanic, yet they insist he is white. And....they keep calling this a "gated community" as if to imply some elite status, but if you look in the background, it is just an apartment complex with a fence around it.

    March 21, 2012 at 3:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • BMcGee

      There are white hispanics, and black hispanics. Zimmerman is a white hispanic, whose father is white. Hispanic is an ethnicity, not a race.

      March 21, 2012 at 5:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • pazke

      I'm staying in Florida right now, and EVERY community has a fence around it and a gate (in Jacksonville).

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

      Most Hispanic's are White. Hispanic is ethinicity, White is race. Please learn the difference.

      March 22, 2012 at 5:25 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Gunny

    I can't make it out. This is crazy! I have known people that have killed in self defense and they were taken into custody and later released. For him not to be even arrested says a lot. In the long run, the family better sue the neighborhood watch organization, the shooter, the police department, the city, and the state. I see another millionaire family in the making.

    March 21, 2012 at 3:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bubba

      uh oh there goes the neighborhood.

      March 21, 2012 at 10:29 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Amie

    He definitely said "eff ing c0on$"

    Did anyone notice that he's lying about the kid coming towards him?

    Right in the middle of Z telling the dispatcher that the kid was "coming towards" him, Z interrupted himself and jumps out/reacts to say the kid is getting away.

    It's seems like that way the point in time that the kid decided to change from walking away quickly TO running away, the way his girlfriend advised (he was on the phone with her at the time).

    March 21, 2012 at 3:44 pm | Report abuse |
  13. mrbrian8

    if i am hearing it correctly it sounds like........" he's runinng, (pause), "f*#king dogs"

    March 21, 2012 at 3:44 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Peggy

    I can hear him saying something while he is running "F-ing ?". I can't tell what the second word was.

    March 21, 2012 at 3:45 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Jeff

    Clearly says "F***ing C**ns".

    March 21, 2012 at 3:45 pm | Report abuse |
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