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. lotus

    Zimmerman may have injuries from his conflict with Tryvon, but I believe he would not have a scratch had he left Trayvon alone and Trayvon would still be alive. His inability to let Trayvon go cost a valuable young life and put his own in jeopardy.

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

    That zimmerman has not been arrested is an indication of the deep racism in this Country. It is clear from the 911 tape of Zimmerman's call exactly what he was calling this young man. The outrage of this kind of bigotry being covered up by Zimmerman's neighbors and the Chief of Police is criminal. I hope he is sued by the Martin family for every cent he has as well as the Chief of Police too. This is some really sick stuff.

    March 22, 2012 at 4:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • Leo

      This is a travesty of justice. Zimmerman should be given the death penalty. He murdered an innocent black teenager because of his racist, bigot views. It is interesting how man white people are trying to justify his actions, including the dirt bag police chief, who is stating Racist Zimmerman acted in self defense. The two republicans who drafted the bill that eventually became law in the state of Florida for self defense objected Zimmerman's defense because the 911 operator tape does not support his defense. If someone murdered my son that way, I would not have the police involved to tell me some nonsense about how it was justified. Zimmerman and his whole entire family going for generations would be TERMINATED. There is no justice in America for black folks unless you are O.J Simpson and you can afford it. Bottom line is young black males are targets for the police and for those walking freely with guns. White families don't worry much about their kids being murdered by the police. Black families need to protect their boys by any means justice, no peace.

      March 22, 2012 at 4:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • CA Central Valley

      Strikes me as odd that anyone is making an issue of the shooter being white vs. hispanic. Is there a consensus out there that only whites are capable of prejudice toward blacks, or anyone else for that matter? Growing up in an area with a lot of blacks and hispanics, I've been witness to a lot of hatred on the part of hispanics toward blacks and visa versa. Nobody's cornered that market. I'm a little offended at the inference that the shooter was more likely to be a hater if he was white.

      March 22, 2012 at 4:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • Wade The Blade

      Why does everything have to be about race? It certainly doesnt help us advance toward of goal of racial equality! It only polorizes the different races. This is a case of a teen who's life was it needs to be revealed as to whether or not is was taken uneccesarily, or without cause......or in self defense. Without the facts, to which none of us are yet privy.........speculation is all any of us are capable be grateful our justice system operates on a higher level. All these HANG EM HIGH, jump to conclusions posters have me in shock...........It seems in thier eyes there is no need for a trial. Just string em up!!!

      March 22, 2012 at 5:10 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Barbara

    I found it easy to hear. It's after Zimmerman says 'the back entrance' then there is a pause, and in a soft voice, as an aside or a less than conscious discharge of thoughts and feelings, he breathes out, ...the slur. On the tape prepsented by Daily Kos the slight pause is at 1:50, and the words are finished at 1:52.

    March 22, 2012 at 4:16 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Nefertari

    This is very sad. I think Zimmerman is mentally ill. I didn't hear any racist remark, I think the media are grasping for straws. He called the police 40+ times the previous month. Maybe he is a schizo? They should try to do some mental tests on him.

    March 22, 2012 at 4:16 pm | Report abuse |
  5. pmmarion

    Ain't no doubt, he said it. If you don't hear it i suggest that you clean the crap out of your ears AND brain.

    March 22, 2012 at 4:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • Nefertari

      It is kind of like those Magic eye pictures they used to have in the mall. You look at it long enough and you will see something. If you listen to this 911 call enough times, you can hear the ocean.

      March 22, 2012 at 4:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • Beadlesaz

      pmmarion – you said it perfectly!

      March 22, 2012 at 5:06 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Gregory Jackson

    I hear absolutely nothing. I've heard more distinct words coming from a toilet bowl swishing

    March 22, 2012 at 4:17 pm | Report abuse |
  7. David


    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.

    Actually sound ls like Trayvon was DEFENDING HIMSELF from some strange man who was stalking him with a weapon.

    March 22, 2012 at 4:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • HZ

      No, the kid was defending himself from this pervert...... if the kid killed mr.z, he should walk free

      March 22, 2012 at 4:25 pm | Report abuse |
  8. RBT

    Regardless of what follows, Zimmerman said "He's running" and that alone is evidence that Zimmerman had to have pursued him, making him the aggressor and Trayvon the threatened individual. Zimmerman's claim of self defense is false. Trayvon had a right to defend himself from a stranger whom he perceived was threatening him.

    March 22, 2012 at 4:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • PK

      This is a tragedy and I will let the investigators sort it out and not speculate as everyone is but I must say that him saying he's running is in no way evidence that he pursued him.

      March 22, 2012 at 5:11 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Mukk Rakker

    What the shooter used was a bullet.
    His stereotypical take is evident from the off – black; hoody.
    He pursued Trayvon when told to stand down by a cop. (As a CAPTAIN no less in his Neighborhood Watch he should have followed ORDERS)
    Watch your 17yo son (white, black, whatever) walk around and tell me he doesn't shuffle...
    And you know why Trayvon was running – some guy he didn't know was chasing him... I'd tell my son to fight him off to.

    March 22, 2012 at 4:22 pm | Report abuse |
  10. David Jenkins

    pmmarion is a bafoon

    March 22, 2012 at 4:23 pm | Report abuse |
  11. HZ

    You can't claim self defense when it was you who stalked the victim and started the fight.
    if Mr.Z can claim self defense, then I can just stalk anyone I don't like for whatever reason and shoot them to death then claim self defense

    March 22, 2012 at 4:27 pm | Report abuse |


    March 22, 2012 at 4:27 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Robert

    I lived in Sanford Florida many years ago. It was a very racist place.

    March 22, 2012 at 4:28 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Devon

    Maybe it's just my internet connection, but it just sounds as if someone was rubbing the microphone on their cell phone with the palm of their hand...

    March 22, 2012 at 4:29 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Michael

    Before I listened to the recording, I was sure I would not be able to hear it. But I'm sure I did. Could I swear to it in court?Yes. I don't understand why people can't let go of this kind of thing. And everytime it happens it just convinces me of how deeply racism has spread its ugly tentacles throughout the fabric of our society.

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