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. Taryn

    Anyone with ears should be able to hear the racial slur! It is 2012 people!! This is such a sad sad story.

    March 22, 2012 at 11:59 am | Report abuse |
  2. Chyrel Jackson

    Shameful, absolutely shameful. My God what decade are we living in when children can't go outside and walk in the neighborhood? This is quite sad and all people regardless of what your race is should really feel bad for Trayvon Martin's family.

    March 22, 2012 at 12:03 pm | Report abuse |
  3. sky

    zimmerman should be prosecuted. period.

    March 22, 2012 at 12:15 pm | Report abuse |
  4. skekLach

    Such a tragedy. I do have to say, however, that I do believe that the "stand your ground" law is still a good law, it's just being abused in this instance. It states that he has a right to defend himself if he has a reasonable fear for his safety or life. An armed man fearing a teenager with a bag of skittles is not in any way, shape or form reasonable.

    March 22, 2012 at 12:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • Carlos Mosley

      That law is flawed, you don't need an extra law for self-defense. In some confrontations the bigger man walks away. If you got this stand up and draw law it inboldens some people, and its easier for them to take things farther because I have a gun.
      This is not the 1800 cowboy days my god people a young man is murdered, and all some people trying to compare racial indidents. Right is right and wrong is wrong no matter what color they are. What sickens me is people have seen black people all their lives and they know they are not all bad, yet just the skin color is profiled, the Arabs and other races are just learning about profliing, blacks have been profiled since slavery. This law should be repealed, this law is made for WWE fighters wolfing at each other not for a social society. Your hate will not go unoticed by God if any of you hatters get to meet him.

      March 22, 2012 at 12:56 pm | Report abuse |
  5. whodathunk

    Best comment I've seen so far. Thought I'd repost. From Jeff O.

    "The Sanford PD is handcuffed by the FLA laws on self-defense more than anything else. They are a small PD that is in over their heads, that's why the FBI has been called in. Legal experts have already said this will be a tough case to prosecute on either a federal or state level. They have to go by the rule of law, not the rule of emotion. There is no justice for Travvon... he's dead. The result of this prosecution, if there is one, will hopefully be changing of the self-defense in FLA which on its face, makes no sense"

    In other words, FLA and the rest of us need better laws to protect ordinary citizens from security "officers" like this. The police are dangerous enough as it is.

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

      The so called"stand your ground"law does not protect zimmmerman. The law does not allow one to pursue and confront. Zimmerman's recorded phone communication with the police dispatch reveals very clearly that he was in pursuit of this young man. The warning not to do so from the police dispatcher(authority) was ignored by zimmerman. The arresting officer and police chief should be fired immediately. And as for zimmerman, anything short of the DEATH PENALTY will not be justice in this case.

      March 22, 2012 at 12:50 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Alex

    The problem with enhanced audio is that in ways it is subjective, you hear what you want to hear and repeated listening only reinforces that.
    The best thing about the demise of vinyl records is that fundamentists could no longer play them backwards to hear satanic messages. The satanic messages were only thir head but that was enough to start witch hunts of bands they did not like. The satanic messages were used as 'evidence' murder trials

    March 22, 2012 at 12:17 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Jeff

    punks is what he is saying , not a racial slur !!! if you listen to it without trying to hear a slur it becomes clear

    March 22, 2012 at 12:22 pm | Report abuse |
  8. sonia

    i absolutely hear it. absolutely NO QUESTION.

    March 22, 2012 at 12:23 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Guest

    If he just said "f-ing punks" how is it racism. Because he is white and the victim is black. That is racism too.

    March 22, 2012 at 12:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • Duh

      He chose to use a slur that is more specific than the word "punks".

      March 22, 2012 at 12:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • Skegeeace

      You don't know that he said that. The expert audio technicians can't even figure it out. Try again.

      March 22, 2012 at 12:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dude

      Hey says F-in koon is what I heard watching Young Turks last night. Great show by the way!

      March 22, 2012 at 12:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • sam thomas

      The issure is not racism, the issure is whether the shooter can justify taking a human life for walking in a neighborhood while Black. The shooter followed the young man by car. The young man was not in anyones yard he was on public properity. Where is the crime ? The shooter did not have a right under state law to take a life. The young man had a right to be in that neighborhood. All American citizens have a right to walk in peace and safety.Blackness is not a crime it is a blessing.

      March 22, 2012 at 1:59 pm | Report abuse |
  10. FactsOnly

    While racism is an important issue, this case does not pivot on whether or not there was a racial slur used. Zimmerman clearly pre-judged Martin when he said "They always get away." It should not matter if Zimmerman was jumped to this conclusion because Martin was black, a teenager, or because he was wearing a hoodie. He demonstrated a clear and obvious bias towards someone who was a complete stranger and had every right to be there. Take away the bias and there is no shooting.

    March 22, 2012 at 12:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • Brandon

      If white men between the ages of 18-25 blew themselves up in shopping malls 8 times in the last 15 months then it is safe to assume that the public and law enforcement would be profiling them and "pre-judge" them when they walk into malls as a person of interest. This is a case where there were 8 robberies over the last 15 months in this neighborhood and the suspects were of African American decent. I can't believe we live in a world today that doesn't let us judge the facts because we are too scared that we are going to hurt feelings. If any particular race and age group is more prone to violence in a certain area then why is it unreasonable that a neighborhood watchman would confront someone who fits that profile?!?!?!

      March 22, 2012 at 12:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • SayWhatTx

      Thank you! Some sense of civility. I believe Zimmerman's actions were racially motivated, but first and foremost he violated that kids rights as a citizen, a person, a human being. Why was this kid in his sights at all. Why are our young men, black, white or hispanic targets of such violence? Zimmerman created exactly what he claimed to halt, criminal behavior!

      March 22, 2012 at 12:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • SayWhatTx

      I agree with you!

      March 22, 2012 at 12:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • SayWhatTx

      My comments were a reply to "FactsOnly" post.

      March 22, 2012 at 12:54 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Duh

    They clearly identify Zimmerman as using the f-word and the f-word is as audible as the racial slur being used, so why is his use of the slur even being questioned? If you hear and can identify the f-word you can hear and identify the slur.

    March 22, 2012 at 12:25 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Domonic Ballard

    Many of you seem to pat Mr Zimmerman on the back and job well done. This is wrong on so many levels it's mind boggling. Trayvon did nothing wrong. Why did he deserve this? Mr Zimmerman is toast. Anybody with a brain can hear what he said. With those two words the Feds can get involved, they have things that can clarify his speech. I was going to take my family to Disneyworld but after this were going to the Grand Canyon.

    March 22, 2012 at 12:26 pm | Report abuse |
  13. what

    oh no! not a racial slur.

    March 22, 2012 at 12:31 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Bettyboop

    I heard it, it is a shame. I hope justice is done.

    March 22, 2012 at 12:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • Charles

      NO you did not. If EXPERTS cant identify it. I highly doubt if you setting on a home computer seriously heard it. What you heard was the little voice in your heard saying im the true racist.

      March 22, 2012 at 12:40 pm | Report abuse |
  15. what

    please! not a racial slur!

    March 22, 2012 at 12:31 pm | Report abuse |
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