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. Jim Barnes

    To me there is so much wrong with this case that, not just potential racism. Yes I heard the slur. But I don't think the shooter "gunned him down because he was wearing a hoodie" or "because he is black" This comment box won't give me the room to describe what I think is wrong here. I think both sides are jumping to conclusions.

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

    If 'many of us have listened to it but can't come to a consensus'

    YOU ARE MORONS PLAYING THE FENCE AS USUAL.

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

    I personally don't care what he said. What I do want to know is why this man has not been arrested for murder? which should have happen the day he killed this "unarmed" young boy. Self-defense? Please..... :\ I don't give a darn about a racial slur, what I do want to see is this Zimmerman pay for his crime!!

    March 22, 2012 at 3:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • Steve

      Zimmerman was beaten, nose broken, signs of strangulation marks at his neck, seems like Trayvon wasn't just standing back being all innocent, sounds like he was attacking this man who DEFENDED HIMSELF.

      March 22, 2012 at 3:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • Keith J B 2

      The importance of the racial slur comes in handy when determining whether the federal courts can prosecute. I'm sure it's a given that Zimmerman will receive some form of justice (whether the flawed justice system, or street justice). However federally he can receive the death penalty for this. If it's not a federal crime, then the state has to prosecute and we already see the state of Florida, or at least the commissioner, doesn't give a flying flippity flip flip

      March 22, 2012 at 4:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • Tony

      Clearly you have access to all of the evidence and have been able to make a determination as to the prosecution's ability to establish all of the elements of capital murder. Please share so that the rest of us can be as well informed as you. Oh wait, you don't have access to all of that? Then shut the h311 up.

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

    Honestly, it sounds like he is saying "F...ing punks" to me. Listen to it with those words already on your mind and it fits just as nicely, if not better, than the proposed racial slur. I'm not saying he isn't a racist or that he isn't an awful person for taking the law into his own hands and killing an innocent young man, I just personally don't think that the racial slur is what was said.

    March 22, 2012 at 3:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mylky

      Nope. You're hearing is going.
      I heard it as clear as i heard everything else he said in that call.
      Those that say he didn't say it, should go thru the alphabet and replace the first letter of that word. List the ones that make sense.
      There aren't many. Oops, sorry. I meant there aren't ANY.

      March 22, 2012 at 4:08 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Sandra

    I have a 31 year old son, and he sometimes asked me.."Mom, why didn't you let me pursue a basketball career'? I was a single mother, worked at night and after school he was to get home and stay there. I told him because I'm scared of what may happen to you after school hours. Back then I was afraid of the police not an everyday citizen. Black women are always in constant fear, wondering can he go here? SHould I let him go there? The day racism ends is when Black people have that classic 'Eagles' song. A peaceful easy feeling. That man had no bussiness gunning down that boy like that.

    March 22, 2012 at 3:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • Steve

      That "innocent boy" was assaulting zimmerman.....i guess that fact is missed by you.

      March 22, 2012 at 3:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • Tony

      Yes, you are the victim. Always the victim.

      March 22, 2012 at 4:18 pm | Report abuse |
  6. A Nomeite

    great. So in the state of Florida I can now blow away anyone whom i don't like. All I have to do is harass the person a bit first to stage an altercation, so that later I can claim I felt "threatened" – and bingo, I'm immune from prosecution. Well, at least as long as I'm white.

    This is like a scenario from the dark ages. This is lawlessness and anarchy. I'm taking Florida off my places to visit for sure.

    March 22, 2012 at 3:57 pm | Report abuse |
  7. wallydanger

    Sounds to me like "f-ing cove". But what sense would that make? There is a large pond in the middle of the complex circled by a walkway, surrounded by buildings. Trayvon probably ducked in there trying to lose his stalker.

    March 22, 2012 at 3:58 pm | Report abuse |
  8. acpitt

    Sounds like he said 'punks' to me...

    March 22, 2012 at 3:59 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Jerry

    Everything said today is racal, and I hear black people calling each other the "N" word all the time, so if its good enough for them it should be good enough for everybody else to use, don't discriminate! I also hear blacks calling Whites names as well! It will never change, ever!

    March 22, 2012 at 4:00 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Jan

    All questions of audible slur aside, if "he's running" how could the shooter possibly have thought he was threatened? It sounds as though there was no possible justification even under that law. It was murder, pure and simple, regardless of that ridiculous Florida (and other states) law.

    March 22, 2012 at 4:07 pm | Report abuse |
  11. steve

    If Zimmerman was harassing an innocent person, to the point of incitement, then perhaps it was Treyvon who was "standing his ground" so to speak. It is from folks like Zimmerman that this law was intended to protect others. Such a clear cut case of mis-guided "vigilante" justice. The race issue is important only insofar as how heinous the crime... but it was clearly murder.

    March 22, 2012 at 4:11 pm | Report abuse |
  12. aster

    I hate people. More horrific than animals.

    March 22, 2012 at 4:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • David

      Well, in case you missed it, people are animals/mammals.

      March 22, 2012 at 4:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • PK

      You obviously have not spent much time outdoors.

      March 22, 2012 at 5:15 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Mukk Rakker

    >sounds like he was attacking this man who DEFENDED HIMSELF

    What a pity Trayvon didn't have a gun: then he could have defended himself without any recrimination, media hype or public outrage. Oh wait, I forgot for a moment there that he was BLACK, because the Stand Your Ground Law in YOUR Florida is only for WHITES (or VERY pale people)...

    March 22, 2012 at 4:12 pm | Report abuse |
  14. PR

    I think he's guilty of murder but I don't think he uses the slur. I'm not sure of what's there on the ground but the word sounds like cones to me.

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

    I'm sure the police regret not arresting Zimmerman... Especially since they found out he is really Hispanic.

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