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. NorCalMojo

    If you play it backwards, it says "give your soul to satan"

    I heard it!

    March 22, 2012 at 5:59 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Johan Goetz

    His family says he is Hispanic and specifically said he speaks Spanish too. With this in mind you can tell that in the heat of the moment, he started to say something in Spanish but stopped himself. This is not uncommon with dual language people Ina stressful situation.

    March 22, 2012 at 5:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kay

      Oh, come on. Zimmerman was born and raised in the United States. He was born in Virginia. English is his FIRST language. it's his native tongue.

      Jeez, I speak Spanish, too...but it's not my native tongue, either...and it never crosses my mind to 'slip' into Spanish when I'm excited.

      I'd bet you money that the only reason his dad brought this up was to defuse charges of white again black racism...nothing more.

      March 22, 2012 at 6:39 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Bob

    The 911 recording has to be taken in context along with everything else. First, an innocent young man was shot and died after returning from a local store "armed" with candy and iced tea. If we jump to conclusions before all evidence is in, we risk giving Zimmermen a perfect ground for appeal. His lawyers will claim that he didn't get a fair trial because he was immediately judged as a racist. The only thing that's important now is that the death of a young man be investigated by federal govt. because locals have lost their ability to be impartial. They are now only worried about protecting the department and avoiding more trouble for themselves.

    March 22, 2012 at 6:16 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Captain Obvious

    There is absolutely no racist slur in that audio. He clearly says "f***ing punks." Leave it to the media to pour gasoline on the fire...

    March 22, 2012 at 6:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • zeb

      well, if he used a racial slur, that proves he is guilty of premeditated murder. No reason to even have a trial. Now lets have an FBI investigation into what color socks the gunman was wearing. Thai is about as relevant.

      March 22, 2012 at 6:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • abel


      March 22, 2012 at 6:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • will brown

      man you are really dumb

      March 22, 2012 at 6:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • george

      But yet here you are reading articles put out by that very media and making comments. You must be a repuglican to be so hypocriticle.

      March 22, 2012 at 6:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • Paula

      He clearly is not saying punks.

      March 22, 2012 at 7:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • Rich

      Captain Obvious should get his hearing examined because once the tape was enhanced and played in an isolation mode in the CNN video, Zimmerman definitely used a racial slur and if I was on a jury, I would say that "beyon the shadow of a doubt". The Sanford Police Dept. blew this one and are now making the entire community look like racists and bigots. My bet is that the Sanford Police have charged others for crimes with less evidence.

      March 22, 2012 at 7:12 pm | Report abuse |
  5. smartypants

    Oh. And I don't care if someone used a racial slur. I witnessed 4 black punks attacking an asian dude at a transit station last year, and they were calling him every slur imaginable. No hate crimes. Actually, I don't think they were even caught. Low priority and all.

    March 22, 2012 at 6:49 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Trajedy

    What happened to the kid was a tragedy but this has nothing to do with the NRA.

    Zimmerman didn't "Stand his ground", he CHASED the kid. He even admitted "He's running"
    Why do you need to use deadly force to protect yourself against someone trying to get away?
    This guy's thin defense is going to get stomped, and he's going to jail for cold blooded murder.

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

    I listened and I can hear him say it quite well.

    March 22, 2012 at 6:57 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Bilvis

    Weather he said it or not..(kind of like the ghost have know idea what was said until they say what they think it was) your brain automatically hears it. For me, this is not a big argument. The man shot an unarmed man. The police told him to quit following and he did not. I do not believe there is any self defense case. My question here is, was it a hate crime? Does it matter if it was? Shouldn't he get the same punishment either way?(life)

    March 22, 2012 at 6:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ms. T

      Thats right. Couldn't have been in Texas. We have the DEATH Penalty. And in my city our D.A. doesn't play that crap. We Just had fourteen year olds sentenced to like for killling a 17 Yr. Old. And a 12 Yr. Old got 7 or 8 yrs til he is old enough to get Paroled. Locking up children but letting these grown folks make excuses. WOW!! No Peace cause there is No Real Justice. I feel bad for those in Florida who are violated. Be SaFe.

      March 22, 2012 at 7:10 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Ms. T

    This Is Ridiculous!!! Whether there was a racial slur or not, That bast*** killed an innocent child for no reason. He should be hung out to dry. I am so sick of this racism because the ANGLO's are considered the Majority.
    Everyone else is considered a minority because of their darker skin color. Had that been a white man killed, or a Mexican who thinks he is white, the police or MAJORITY race would have drugged the shooter to an isolated spot and nearly beat him to death. He should be hiding well. They need to arrrest this Mexican Pig, or whatever he wanna be, before HIS family is crying for Their loss!!!! Chief Too!!! CERDO!!!!!

    March 22, 2012 at 7:00 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Tragedy

    I just listened to the audio and I heard it too clear as day. Zimmerman will get hauled in. I don't know that this is racially motivated, but given that it potentially is, could be the means by which the law has probable cause to haul him in for investigation.

    March 22, 2012 at 7:02 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Oh no

    ...oh no...did someone say a bad word?...tsk, tsk, tsk.

    March 22, 2012 at 7:12 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Don

    Who cares about what he said, when is killing unarmed boy self defense! This is capital murder!

    March 22, 2012 at 7:12 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Blueberry Muffin Mix

    Everyone who says this is racist is wasting their time at this point. Go to the other story about the Mississippi boy who ran over that black man, NOW that is racism. This is just a hispanic protecting his turf, and this poor boy was at the wrong place at the wrong time. Kind of like lost travelers in Alaska who stumble upon a pack of wolves.

    March 22, 2012 at 7:13 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Elvis?

    Is that Elvis I hear in the background?

    March 22, 2012 at 7:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • QuecheEater

      I think it is Tupac.

      March 22, 2012 at 7:26 pm | Report abuse |
  15. QuecheEater

    Can't we all just get along? -RK

    March 22, 2012 at 7:19 pm | Report abuse |
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