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. Johnnie

    It sounds like he said it, but i agree, i could not swear to that's what he said. Regardless we cannot have vigilante justice in america.

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

      We cani't have vilgilante justice in this town??? I think you just did, or did I miss something on this topic...Zimmerman, was the aggressor, the accussor, judge jury and executioner.....

      March 22, 2012 at 3:11 pm | Report abuse |
  2. guest


    March 22, 2012 at 2:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • Nicholas

      I am hispanic I'm not saying that I am but yes we can be racist. Many Mexicans out here in California are. Zimmerman straight up murdered a child for no REAL reason and he deserves to be charged with murder. I grew up brown in an ALL WHITE I mean ALL WHITE neighborhood. As a child and a teen I was questioned by neighbors and the sheriff on several occasions as to why I was there. My parents are both college educated, as am I, and see their children and parents as patients. Hopefully there will be justice for this young man and his family.

      March 22, 2012 at 3:50 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Nefertari

    Hispanics can't be racists. Only whites can, therefore this wasn't a hate crime.

    March 22, 2012 at 2:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • honest abe

      Mexicans race is 'white'. All hispanics (except those with dark complexion) are from the WHITE race. Educate yourself!

      March 22, 2012 at 3:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • Chris Hewitt

      That is the dumbest comment I have ever seen on any message board. ANYONE can be a racist, you idiot.

      March 22, 2012 at 3:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • Rojam3

      Hey Nefertari,
      Thanks for letting the world know how stupid you really are....Hispanics can't be racist

      March 22, 2012 at 3:51 pm | Report abuse |
  4. DeeNYC

    could have said boots, kooks.. who knows.

    March 22, 2012 at 2:48 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Truthsayer

    I'm white – 51 years old, college educated. I didn't know what word I was supposed to be listening for, but I heard a racial slur clearly the first time. No enhancements needed, no playback several times. It is there and anyone with average listening abilities can hear it very very clearly.

    March 22, 2012 at 2:51 pm | Report abuse |
  6. sunsets55

    well, what about the black community comparing the 3 duke lacrosse players to hitler? that's not a hate-filled and racist comment?? the 3 men weren't germans and certainly not nazis...and did anyone in the black community apologize or take back the hate?? those marches showed no love as far as i remember, i saw hate and anger. and yet, the victim lied and even asked nifong to drop the case and the black community pressued him to still prosecute them. and they were found innocent. why no outcry over the injustice those 3 men endured?? why didn't sharpton or jackson try to make peace with them or at least take back any negative comments they made against them? they took the 'victim's' side only because she was black, not that she was telling the truth. and in the end, those 3 guys were the real victims.

    March 22, 2012 at 2:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • Carlos Mosley

      Hey Sunsets, why bring up the pass, we should be moving forward and learn from the past. There is a young man dead and
      all you could do is drub up hate from the past. Are we the Sunni's and Shihites, I would have thought Americans would be
      more educated and more civil, another thing I have learned is the less educated whites are blacks the more hateful and racist. Those young men are free and living their lives in luxury, and you want to compare that to a dead kid, shame on you and the people like you. A mind is a terrible thing to waste.

      March 22, 2012 at 3:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • honest abe

      you are a racist! you want to defend this guy? wow! Hispanics are very racist!!!!!!! they haven't evolved from the 1950's yet!

      March 22, 2012 at 3:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jim Thornton

      OMG Will you Shut Up?!!! Since when is being called Hitler a slur

      March 22, 2012 at 3:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • Arielski

      The lacrosse players are still alive. That's the difference.

      March 22, 2012 at 3:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • Janet

      The "Black Community"? The entire Black Community called the Duke Lacrosse players Nazis? I think that is a tad bit of stretch. Besides what does that case have to do with this one which included one armed man against an unarmed man ending in murder?

      March 22, 2012 at 3:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • Guest

      Because those 3 players aren't black.

      March 22, 2012 at 3:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • Seriously

      I think you're forgetting the white prosecutor who got everyone riled up by making inflammatory comments to the media and was subsequently disbarred.

      March 22, 2012 at 3:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bubba™

      Compare to those nappy headed hoes at Rutgers...

      March 22, 2012 at 3:30 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Shimmy

    I think it sounds like "punks" – the vowel sounds more like a "u" than a "oo". It's so low, though – I doubt they'll ever be able to enhance it enough to end this debate. That said, he still initiated the confrontation and apparently shot a boy while sitting on top of him. Sanford police need to grow a pair, admit there is reason to believe this was not self-defense and put the guy in jail.

    March 22, 2012 at 2:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • Vivian

      That's exactly what I thought. Wasn't sure what the word was, but it's definitely a short "u" vowel sound as opposed to an "oo" sound (same as the difference between the vowel sounds in "hunt" and "room"). I guess "punks" would fit. Doesn't lessen Zimmerman's culpability a bit, and I want him to pay for killing this child, but I don't want justice to be affected by possibly incorrect claims.

      March 22, 2012 at 3:42 pm | Report abuse |
  8. gary


    March 22, 2012 at 2:56 pm | Report abuse |
  9. JP

    I'm sure that this has already been pointed out but being as lazy as i am – im not going through all the comments- why shoot if he was running?

    March 22, 2012 at 2:58 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Bigg-E

    I personally don't hear the c word, I hear more of a 'p' sound in there...

    March 22, 2012 at 2:59 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Egallagher

    You can hear the racial slur and the curse word implicitly!!!!! Whomever says they can't hear it – it's because they don't want to!!!!! It might be a very quick moment in this matter – but it is a HUGE indication of what was in Zimmerman's mind.

    March 22, 2012 at 3:20 pm | Report abuse |
  12. CQ

    It doesn't matter what he may or may not have said. The boy was shot in self defense. Incase you haven't read the police report – Zimmerman was bleeding from the back of his head, he did have a bloody nose, and he had grass stains on the back of hit shirt. How did Zimmerman get struck in the back of the head? An "innocent" person struck him, of course. While Zimmerman was trying to walk away. Innocent indeed. Everything Zimmerman told the police was found to be truthful – whoever posted saying to take GSR and fingerprints – what's the point? Zimmerman admitted he carried a concealed weapon – and he never lost control over his weapon. There was no "crime", why would they take his weapon for evidence?

    March 22, 2012 at 3:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • MM

      Just becasue he had a bloody nose and grass stains on him doesnt mean it was self defense!!!! Zimmerman came up to the kid... That poor boy was fighting for his life trying to get him off of him!!!!!

      March 22, 2012 at 3:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • yamise

      im sorry but how is this self defense when it was zimmerman that approached the 140lbs boy .. if anything trayvon was defending himself .. he was followed approached and shot ... so do me a favor .. the next time someone twice ur size attacks u , don't fight back , and see what happens

      March 22, 2012 at 3:42 pm | Report abuse |
  13. KTinCA

    So obvious on that audio. Neighborhood watch fellow? With a gun? Jail this young man asap. He needs to be charged with murder and tried – the racial filth coming out of his mouth tells the story. Let the system take it from there.

    March 22, 2012 at 3:32 pm | Report abuse |
  14. firewaller

    LOL I'm mexican and we are not white. Thats actually offensive to alot of mexicans. We are latino and native. Latino is a mix of european, native, and african heritage. There is a reason we have dark skin. There is parts of south america that has caucasions, but mexico is not one of them.

    March 22, 2012 at 3:34 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Michael

    A City Manager listened to the tape and didn't hear a racial slur. People on these forums were outraged, called him a racist. The funny thing.....the City Manager is blk. So much for playing that card.

    March 22, 2012 at 3:34 pm | Report abuse |
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