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. profart

    Stan, if some stranger started chasing you with a gun, and then started fighting with you, and you realized he had a gun and were trying to defend yourself, then he SHOT YOU DEAD, who is victim? And is he justified in shooting you?

    March 22, 2012 at 11:04 am | Report abuse |
  2. BillyBob369

    After it was enhanced, it sure sounded like a racial slur to me. However, when watching Ghost Hunters and they slowly play some of the alleged spirit voice, I can hear "Get out!" Sad story. This guy should not have fired on that young man unless he was in fear of his life. Which I don't believe for a second.

    March 22, 2012 at 11:09 am | Report abuse |
  3. twright

    Fact 1. The police immediately did a background check on the dead child, and not the the shooter. Fact 2. The police immediately did a drug test on the dead child, and not the shooter. Fact 3. The police tried to quite the white female witness who heard the young man pleading for his life, not the shooter. Fact 4. The police began to try and dig up "dirt" on the dead child and not the shooter. Not looking good for the police chief...

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

      I never heard any of this information – where do you get your news the Sharpton Network.

      March 22, 2012 at 12:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • BMcGee

      Donna, shame on you. I have read all the same information on cnn and other major network news sites. You could too if you wanted to be informed.

      March 22, 2012 at 1:30 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Mary

    This is a sad time for a family that lost their son. And even sadder that all everyone is worried about is whether the young man was black and the shooter was hispanic – he was a human being shot in cold blood by another human being who has no regard for human life. Whether he said a racial slur or not is not the point the man shot a kid and he died – he cannot be brought back – and the shooter should be charged and convicted. Unfortunately there is always going to be something bad said to one another. We throw out hateful and hurtful words to egg people on. It's unfortunate but it is reality. We can't as a society take the law into our own hands like this. Shooting each other is not a solution – teaching respect for life and the consequences of our actions is so important and has been just forgotten in our society. How did our world become so cold hearted and life doesn't mean anything anymore? It is so sad and my heart goes out to the families that are left behind to deal with their grief and anger.

    March 22, 2012 at 11:14 am | Report abuse |
  5. Canuck613

    Anyone who didn't hear "f–king c–n" has his/her head buried in the sand. Hate crime, no question. And who is "they" when he says these a–holes always get away? Wake up people! Zimmerman new the law and decided to finally kill himself a "c–n", claim self defense, end of story. Let's mamke sure the story really ends with this a–hole brought to justice.

    March 22, 2012 at 11:14 am | Report abuse |
    • toxictown

      CNN has poisoned the well somewhat by planting "c–ns" in our heads to the point that you can't really hear anything else (could be "punks", could be "kids") but either way, I think the rest of Zimmerman's dialog is enough to incriminate him on a hate crime charge.

      March 22, 2012 at 11:34 am | Report abuse |
  6. tasha

    Those who are blind and refuse to think that this was not racially motivated should listen to these 911 calls again. The word that was used is a racial slur typically used against "'BLACK" people. Sad thing is that those who feel as if this guy rightfully killed this young man have the hardest time seeing the obvious. This guy chased this young man and gunned him down as if he was hunting an animal. Ask yourself how you would feel if your child was Trayvon. The thing about racism is that you can hide it. Most people do not come out and say that they hate another race in 2012 as they use to do back in the 50's. To say that "they" always get away with this says a lot to me. To target a kid walking with a hoodie on is simply ridiculous. This man is pointing the finger at Trayvon and accusing him of posing threat to him but he chased this young man. So you tell me who posed the treat to whom? As for the chief their, he should be removed from his position. It’s 2012 and we still have to go thru this racial profiling just because of the pigmentation in our skin. Racism will NEVER end there are too many people who are still raising their kids to hate others because of the color of their skin. It’s a cycle of hate that needs to be broken or things like this will continue to happen without any justice for the victim and their families. Very sad situation

    March 22, 2012 at 11:15 am | Report abuse |
    • gary


      March 22, 2012 at 2:54 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Lee

    Sounds pretty clear to me!!!

    March 22, 2012 at 11:20 am | Report abuse |
  8. Draka

    Ralph you are incorrect .My concealed weapons permit instructor was an American of African decent and they are not expensive and I am a dirt poor American of Irish decent.

    March 22, 2012 at 11:28 am | Report abuse |
  9. Don

    What about all the incidents we never hear about in my neighborhood of blacks targetting whites? Why can these not make the news? They occur much more frequently than the other way around.....lets focus on black racism?

    March 22, 2012 at 11:37 am | Report abuse |
    • Wes

      Because the Liberal fools at CNN like the "shock factor" more and promote this type of stuff... In all fairness it's the same if a white woman goes missing overseas. It's headline news. Forget the fact that any number of people are reported missing in the same locale each day..

      March 22, 2012 at 11:48 am | Report abuse |
    • Alix

      So this kid in the prime of his life dead with nothing more than candy in his pocket is ok with you?

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

      I agree with you 100% ........

      March 22, 2012 at 12:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • Marcus Garvey

      You are the epitome of why people don't trust others. This guy killed a kid and you wanna complain that whites get attacked too? Yeah, usually by a group of ignorant teenagers or dbags, not a supposedly respected person of the community. It may sound the same, but it usually isn't. Your way it is usually caused by someone who is smart enough to know better. Cops, etc. You don't hear about white kids getting shot by neighborhood watch for walking down the street.

      March 22, 2012 at 12:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • donna

      That is true and I agree. However, this is a little different. Zimmerman should have turned around and went home and he did not. But certainly, there is no denying the amount of black on white crime that gets little or no attention.

      March 22, 2012 at 12:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mike

      Don, I simply cannot believe that black community watchmen in your neighborhood routinely shoot white people in your neighborhood whom they suspect of crimes? How many black community watchmen do you have in your neighborhood, anyway? I don't think anyone is saying that there are not instances of racially motivated crime that go unreported in the news, with perpetrators and victims of all ethnicities. I think the issue here that Mr. Zimmerman was purporting to act in the name of the law, and appallingly, Florida's law and law enforcement in this case seem to approve of his actions. It is far too narrow-minded see Mr. Zimmerman's actions and his motivations as the only relevant aspects of this case. Bigger issues are in play here that people like Don are simply ignoring.

      March 22, 2012 at 12:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • gary


      March 22, 2012 at 12:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • Hahaha

      Really, Don? Blacks target whites because they are white? CRY ME A RIVER.

      March 22, 2012 at 12:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • Alex

      Don, I have been trying to send a response to your post for the last 20 minutes. I guess the jew in charge of screening them won't allow in. Probably related to that jew zimmerman.

      March 22, 2012 at 1:18 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Rabbit One

    Look – racism is a huge problem that needs to be constantly battled and corrected from all sides – even this CNN coverage is marred by racism in the line "police called him white, family called him Hispanic" – do you hear how race is used to electrify tensions and divide the sympathies of people, who in truth should be unified against the injustice of a young man being murdered for naught by an adult with a gun? Yes racism is a problem here: in fact the murderer could have been very racist – we don't right know – but we do know that we have to sooth all this division and tension or more racism will occur – we have a clear choice we can all be a family and live the way nature wants us to live – or we can keep using abstractions and false perceptions to divide the world's great family of pure equals.

    March 22, 2012 at 11:37 am | Report abuse |
    • Mario

      When will people learn that "Hispanic" is not a race! Being Hispanic is a person's ethnicity. There are white, black, asian and native Hispanics. The man who shot him is a white Hispanic!!

      March 22, 2012 at 11:50 am | Report abuse |
  11. p

    The boy is dead. Zimmerman admits he's the shooter. Zimmerman not drug/alchohol tested? Zimmerman allowed to leave the site with his loaded gun? He wasn't even really questioned by police?
    Something terribly wrong here.

    March 22, 2012 at 11:38 am | Report abuse |
    • Alix

      He needs to use the rest of his bullets on himself!

      March 22, 2012 at 11:49 am | Report abuse |
    • donna

      I agree. Why was he not brought it if for no other reason for questioning. He should be behind bars right now.

      March 22, 2012 at 12:05 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Clif

    The slur is quite clearly heard.

    March 22, 2012 at 11:41 am | Report abuse |
    • Wes

      Who the hell even uses that term. I couldn't hear it at first and I'll admit it's mostly because I wasn't terribly sure what it was I was supposed to hear. I assumed the N Word and when I didn't hear it I wasn't sure what was said until it was explained and even then it was only after it was slowed down and manipulated.

      March 22, 2012 at 11:50 am | Report abuse |
    • Valentijn

      Agreed. I didn't even know what I was supposed to be listening for, but it was shockingly obvious when he said it. I'm surprised a major news outlet is even making the audio publicly available without bleeping it – though I'm glad they are, since it needs to be known.

      March 22, 2012 at 12:12 pm | Report abuse |
  13. armed professional

    Clearly no one who has ever shot somebody, been shot at, or investigated a shooting has posted any comments. Typically in a shooting incident both the shooter and the deceased are subjected to what can best be described as an information rectal exam. This does not take 40 minutes or two commercial breaks like they show on TV. If law enforcement is doing their job then they will eventually announce their findings – which may be that they're submitting their report to the District Attorney or Grand Jury.

    Even then, there should be no presumptive "Ah-Ha!" since police departments routinely submit cases specifically to get them dismissed. This tactic is to shield the department from liability and any appearance of impropriety or malfeasance.

    A lot has been made about the number of phone calls Zimmerman made to 911 over the past years. He is an active member of a Neighborhood Watch group, so I think it would be expected for someone like him to be calling for police services on a more frequent basis.

    What seems to be overlooked is there is no legal prohibition against Zimmerman approaching Martin and engaging him in a conversation. "What are you doing here?" does count as engaging in conversation – just listen to the conversations going on in any singles bar.

    That said, I think Zimmerman was an idiot – there appears to be no reason for him to pursue or confront Martin. What is legal is not necessarily a good idea. CCW permit holders are routinely instructed specifically to avoid confrontations whenever possible. This is pretty much the standard nation wide.

    March 22, 2012 at 11:44 am | Report abuse |
    • Kelly

      We live in a world where people grow up watching CSI and Law & Order.. They think an investigation, arrest, trial and conviction should all be wrapped up in 45 minutes. And the suspect always confesses of course..

      March 22, 2012 at 12:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • SoMuch Baloney

      What is your point?

      In the cases involving unarmed decedent: How does the police determine their "findings"? What is the "standard" for going about discovering these findings? What kind of 'findings'/evidence (or lack thereoff) will prompt the Grand Jury unilateraly dismiss a homicide involving an unarmed decedent? Does the Grand jury and police department routinely throw out homicide cases involving unarmed decedents?

      What is the reasonable length of time they take to determine that the armed person was acting in self-defense? Surely that doesn't take 40 mins to determine!!! Interviewing witnesses, phone records etc...all came out weeks after Trayvon died.

      March 22, 2012 at 12:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • SoMuch Baloney

      armed professional: What is your point?

      In the cases involving unarmed decedent: How does the police determine their "findings"? What is the "standard" for going about discovering these findings? What kind of 'findings'/evidence (or lack thereoff) will prompt the Grand Jury unilateraly dismiss a homicide involving an unarmed decedent? Does the Grand jury and police department routinely throw out homicide cases involving unarmed decedents?

      What is the reasonable length of time they take to determine that the armed person was acting in self-defense? Surely that doesn't take 40 mins to determine!!! Interviewing witnesses, phone records etc...all came out weeks after Trayvon died.

      March 22, 2012 at 12:33 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Jeff N.

    In the tape of the racial slur that CNN played, it sounds like Zimmerman was saying "f--- Noles" referring to the Florida State Seminoles, who are sometimes called the "Noles". My question is – was Trayvor Martin wearing any FSU apparel? If Zimmerman is a U. of Florida fan, then this might make sense.

    March 22, 2012 at 11:49 am | Report abuse |
  15. Clif

    People, there are uncensored, ultra clear versions of this recording on youtube. All you have to do is search.

    March 22, 2012 at 11:49 am | Report abuse |
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