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. Doug

    It's pretty obvious what he said (listening through a headset) – I don't fault the 911 officer for not hearing it initially – but it's extremely obvious and I'm a little offended that CNN isn't calling it for what it is.

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

    Did I just hear George the cnn reporter say black community, in his report. Sounds like a racial slur to me. Maybe he should step down. George the proper thing to say is African American Community.

    March 22, 2012 at 2:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • mcj

      Yes.. if I was presented with the information in a jury setting, I believe there is reasonable evidence to support he did indeed say a racial slur. It was pretty clear, he had already decided the victim was up to no good from his 911 call.

      Even more interesting, is that term is not one you generally hear all across the US. It seem to be more of a regional thing. I would be more inclined to believe it was not a slur if this happened in a area where that term was not used... but in this case.. it is.

      Bottom line.. the shooter should have done what the 911 operator told him to and disengage. It seems a case of a small minded person with a over developed sense of authority coupled with a bias.

      March 22, 2012 at 2:42 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Rabid Nerd

    So Anderson Cooper wants you to say whether or not a remark was racist "in a 911 call he made Mormon".

    This proves Anderson Cooper is anti-Mormon. He calls them racist. #TPFIC

    March 22, 2012 at 2:15 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Nefertari

    Sounds like fabric rubbing together. CNN stretching like hell to make this guy a racist. I think he has mental problems, but that doesn't mean he is a racist.

    March 22, 2012 at 2:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • dorothy walker

      If you are white, you don't know a racial slur when you hear one. What that shooter said is a racial slur when he used it. His ass should be in jail. He must have watched too many "Death Wish" movies!

      March 22, 2012 at 2:51 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Dev

    Yes I do hear the racial slur. I do believe this murder is about race and those of you who are denying this are just denying facts. If a 17 year old white kid was shot down, we would have a totally different response from the law officers. I know there are racist individuals in America. However, to see the law enforcement authorities to be so blatantly racist is just very saddening. Why would an admitted shooter be not apprehended and questioned in court. Is the life of a minority kid so cheap that we do no investigation? I am not white and I live in a gated community. Should I be worried about me and my son walking outside and be ready to answer questions from any dude with a gun.

    March 22, 2012 at 2:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • enraged in Pa

      DEV, honestly you do not hear anything. You want to hear something, but there is nothing there to hear at all. Everyone is listening to it and there is no conclusions but you are part of this witch hunt and you need to stop and let the police work out this nightmare. But people like you are a huge part the problem.

      March 22, 2012 at 2:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dev

      "enraged in PA' : I know what I hear and you know what you hear. The police not doing the right thing is the problem that I am complaining about. There is no witch hunt. All people are asking for is to arrest the person who admitted to killing a 17 year unarmed minority kid and prove to judge or jury that it was necessary to do so. Not sure why you are enraged but I am enraged because a 17 year old kid is shot dead in street and police has so far not done anything about it.

      March 22, 2012 at 2:51 pm | Report abuse |
  6. mike

    sounds like f-ing punks, not racist

    March 22, 2012 at 2:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • sandcrab

      The african american kids who commit all the robberies and assaults all over america have made people look at black kids as trouble makers. This makes it hard on the african american kids who stay in school and keep out of trouble. Not all black people are criminals. Just as not all white people are racist.

      March 22, 2012 at 4:05 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Phil Hersey

    I have a concealed carry permit in Nevada and I stopped carrying because a guy got mad at me and I thought he was going to punch me...and I had a gun. It all got pretty confusing at that point what I should do? Reveal the gun and back off? If he advanced I would have had to shoot him (he may take gun and use it on me). I decided I would rather take a punch than kill. I carry a stungun now. Anyway, in Nevada, you MUST be in fear for your life or the life of another AND you better be able to prove it. You can't advance on someone. If he doesn't have a lethal weapon you are going to have a hard time proving your fear. This guy obviously wanted to kill a black bad guy. And yeah, I think he uttered "f-ing something". I'm thinking 2nd degree murder. Even in Florida. The police should have arrested him and make him prove it was self defense. Their is still a lot of racism in US, yes between Latinos and Blacks too.

    March 22, 2012 at 2:19 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Erin

    I can't believe anyone can confuse the letter "g" with the letter "c." He certainly wasn't saying "goons" in that video.

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

      No he didn't say "goons," but replace that g with a c, and you have a racial slur.

      March 22, 2012 at 2:36 pm | Report abuse |
  9. obama_da_commie

    Can CNN please cover the story of Al Qaeda killing an American for teaching Christianity in Yemen. Why isn't this news? Isn't this type of killing supposed to outrage us, or is it cool to kill Christians nowadays. BTW, Fox is covering it.

    March 22, 2012 at 2:26 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Bamawhitechik

    Z should be prosecuted. Although he was speakingly lowly, it did sound like a racial slur to me that I haven't heard anyone say in a very, very long time. Glad the FBI is involved. Justice for Treyvor.

    March 22, 2012 at 2:29 pm | Report abuse |
  11. yneemee

    Why doesn't CNN run photos showing Zimmerman as a boy scout or dressed up for Halloween or his prom or holding a baby like they only show Trayvon dresed for a football game or as a baby – why does CNN and others want to flame racial animus BEFORE the facts are in – why oh why ?

    How about telling us the time of day when this occurred and other FACTS rather than throwing out that a "racial slur" may have been used. Why is OK to use the N word in a song or movie and not on the street – isn't free speech, free speech everwhere – why oh why ?

    And why doesn't CNN and otherrs devote near as much attention to the murder of whites, blacks, hispanics, asians and gays at the hands of blacks as they do when it is at the hands of whites – why oh why ?

    March 22, 2012 at 2:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • Nefertari

      That's not how it works. Whites are the only bad race out there. They are priveliged, and they keep everyone else down. They are evil.

      March 22, 2012 at 2:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • KKDenver

      and just where would they get such a picture?

      March 22, 2012 at 2:35 pm | Report abuse |
  12. yneemee

    If you play it backwards, it sounds like Obama for President

    March 22, 2012 at 2:32 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Mike

    Just decoded zimmermans latest recording, Mosly inaudible but i can say with confidence the slur that CNN cannot BREAKDOWN says "FU#*&NG PUNKS, could be a racist remark, Im white and have been called a punk in my teen years, dont feel the racist routine working here, but none the less a tragic end to a young life, please knock off this racist stuff, or we'll take a trip to the ghetto where the real dangerous gun toting hoodlums hate and condem white people.. just saying this shoe fits on both feet here.

    March 22, 2012 at 2:32 pm | Report abuse |
  14. sircharles

    Zimmerman did use a racist word before he shot that teen. Period!

    March 22, 2012 at 2:33 pm | Report abuse |
  15. White & Right

    How is it that Zimmerman' s gun was not retrieved by police and tested, not finger printed, hands not tested for gun powder reside? None of this makes sense. Sanford police department is hiding something and its frightening. They should FIRED the chief without benefits and investigate him and all invlolved. There is a RAT in Sandford FL. It's inexcusable they did not try to contact next of kin using cell phone of Trayvon's. They thought this would slide, under the rug, and he was just another dead Black kid. What the police department didn"t know was that he was from a good middle class family and he was a good kid who was going to be somebody. Zimmerman and police decided his life didn't matter and had no value. I wiil never forget and forgive this SHAMEFUL INJUSTICE!!! I am ashame of my white race not being MORE outraged!!

    March 22, 2012 at 2:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • supafat

      He's Hispanic, maybe that's why?

      March 22, 2012 at 2:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • jrh0341

      Your comment doesn't make any logical sense. WHY WOULD the police fingerprint the gun or test the Zimmerman's hans for gunshot residue? To prove what? GSR and fingerprinting would only be used to determine whether Zimmerman fired a gun. That point was never under contention. We all know he fired the gun. Zimmerman acknowledged firing the gun. He said he shot him. What possible new information would either of those tests prove?

      March 22, 2012 at 3:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • Nefertari

      March 22, 2012 at 3:24 pm | Report abuse |
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