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. Mike

    He must have said a racial slur, he has to have, it has to be racism, or the million Skittle march is in vain. Without racism, it's just a shooting. A kid is dead, and should not be. The focus should be on the shooting not on race.

    March 22, 2012 at 4:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • BMcGee

      If it's a racial slur and hate crime, then the feds can prosecute instead of the state of FL. THAT'S why it's important.

      March 22, 2012 at 5:18 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Keen Eyez

    Does Zimmerman only have one picture? Seems like he is a very unhappy fellow. I would like to see him smile too.

    March 22, 2012 at 5:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mark


      March 22, 2012 at 5:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • ADiff

      Yeah, kinda like Martin, who apparently always wore his JV football gear..... What a put-up job by just about everybody. It's a real 'Bonfire of the Vanities"....

      March 22, 2012 at 5:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • Keen Eyez 2

      He only has one good picture.

      March 22, 2012 at 6:00 pm | Report abuse |
  3. richard

    sound like punks

    March 22, 2012 at 5:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • Brian

      That's exactly what it is. As I just posted, I do audio transcription for a living. I'm good. My professional opinion is that what he's saying is "punks."

      March 22, 2012 at 5:40 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Rob in FL

    The ignorance of Americans never ceases to amaze me. Why is there such a question on wether he is WHITE or HISPANIC? A persons color is NOT determined by their ethnicity, there are both BLACK and WHITE hispanic people.

    March 22, 2012 at 5:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • Glock

      yea, I bet the black hispanics are treated different than the white ones...

      March 22, 2012 at 5:23 pm | Report abuse |
  5. FSU Fan

    I think that Zimmerman said "f-- Noles" which is short for the Florida State Seminoles. Was Travon wearing and FSU apparel? If Zimmerman was a U. Of Florida fan (many HATE the Seminoles).

    March 22, 2012 at 5:13 pm | Report abuse |
  6. icanthearit

    You have to be racist to hear it. All I hear is unintelligible gibberish. But, If you play it backwards it says, "Servant of Satan."

    March 22, 2012 at 5:14 pm | Report abuse |
  7. It matters

    It sounds pretty clear to me that he said f-ing c-ns. This matters because it determines whether this was a hate crime or self defense. The law in Florida apparently allows one to shoot to kill even if one is just threatened with violence. And as long as there are no witnesses, it's the shooter's word against a dead man. Personally, I think this self-appointed vigilante was cruising for a bruising and used his self-nominated authority as a Neighborhood Watch Captain to throw his weight around and take out his anger and resentment for young black men on this boy. I hope justice is done. I hope this instigates a discussion about repealing such a irresponsible law that allows someone to kill another person and get away with it. If he had only wounded this individual, perhaps he would be sitting in jail now because you would have the victim's word that he wasn't fighting or threatening. But still, without a witness, the shooter get's off scot free . I guess in Florida, anyone with a grudge can get away with murder so long as there are no witnesses. They can just claim they feared for their safety and blast away.

    March 22, 2012 at 5:21 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Marie

    People really need to stop saying "it's not about race" just to be politically correct. Zimmerman made a point of pointing out the fact that young Martin was black and the comment he made that "they always get away". What "they" do you think he is talking about?

    March 22, 2012 at 5:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bubba™

      The hoodies that are always robbing the neighborhood.

      March 22, 2012 at 5:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • ADiff

      Uh, criminals? That's what it seems to me. This is absurd...all I can hear is heavy breathing...background noise, which if we manipulate it and distort it enough we can probably make ourselves believe we hear just about anything at all. Myself, I think he said "Paul is dead". Strange to hear Beatles lyrics from a Zimmerman!

      March 22, 2012 at 5:52 pm | Report abuse |
  9. atljack

    If you hear a slur you are PREDISPOSED to hear it. This sounds are complete jibberish.

    This is a case of hearing what you want to hear.

    March 22, 2012 at 5:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • mike

      sorry I can not hear you! what did you say?
      I saw the audio analysis on this one and it is easy to match patern of wavelength to this.
      I guess you can't see how wrong it is for a man to kil a kid for his skittles.

      March 23, 2012 at 8:45 pm | Report abuse |
  10. texan

    It certainly sounds like fn kons to me.

    March 22, 2012 at 5:40 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Brian

    My earlier comment didn't show up. Maybe because I spelled out the word.

    I transcribe audio for a living; been doing it for 12 years. I am well experienced at deciphering difficult-to-hear audio. In my professional opinion, he is not saying "c**ns," he's saying "punks" - "These f**in' punks." Listen to it with HEADPHONES and break it down.

    I don't hear any "C" in there. My very first impression, first time I heard it in the open air on CNN's segment last night, was that the first letter of whatever word he was uttering was "P," not "C." Upon further listening with headphones on the video in this article, I also definitely hear a sharp "K" sound at the end of the word, not an "N." And the middle vowel certainly does not sound like the "oo" sound to me, it sounds like a "U."

    Listen to it again. This is like a Rorschach test... if you believe it was a racial slur, you're going to hear "c**ns." But BREAK THE WORD DOWN. Do you hear a "C" at the beginning of the word? I don't, I hear a "P." Do you hear an "N" in the word? I don't.

    March 22, 2012 at 5:42 pm | Report abuse |
  12. ADiff

    I could very clearly hear the phrase "...Paul is dead...", no question about it.

    March 22, 2012 at 5:49 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Serious

    This is a common slur. For those who say they didn't understand what he said should turn up the volume. This guy should be arrested no matter what the color. I'm black and if this was reverse I would feel the same way. However, if the shooter was black then this wouldn't be a discussion. I pray for all of us no matter the skin tone.

    March 22, 2012 at 5:51 pm | Report abuse |
  14. another1

    Zimmerman said "f-ing" [something], that is undeniable.. I'm sure he didn't mean to say anything positive after "f-ing". The presence of Trayvon agitated him enough to say "f-ing" [something] and as we all know his actions following this statement resulted in him murdering an innocent boy.

    March 22, 2012 at 5:51 pm | Report abuse |
  15. lavernerussell

    its just that simple he killed that child because he was black ,an he should pay the price,the police told him not to follow nim he did it ,he took the law into his own hands an kill some one child ,an he is a child killin bastered,an i hate him an if it would havebeen a white child i would feel the same dam way ,im very upset abou this ,i love all kids an i hate the fact that some one is hurtin them.

    March 22, 2012 at 5:58 pm | Report abuse |
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