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. Rebekah

    I can't stand the comments people make about Trayvon saying if he would've answered the questions maybe he'w be alive, How many of us would answer questions from a STRANGER? A stranger ask you why are you here and starts to follow you. I would have began to run. What some people aren't remembering is that this young man didn't know ZImmermann was part of the neighborhood or the neighborhood watch supervisor or whatever. Zimmerman was just as much of a stranger to this young man as this young man was to Zimmermann.

    March 23, 2012 at 12:10 am | Report abuse |
    • TRuth

      I totally agree with you. I dont think he should have to answerin one off the street who just walks up to him like that.

      March 23, 2012 at 2:29 am | Report abuse |
  2. unc22

    This is the kinda person the death penalty is meant for. I hope the feds fry this wannabe cop, and then throw the police chief and detectives who covered up a murder and a hate crime in jail for the rest of their natural lives. This is sick. If not for technology, they might have got away with it. This is how low law enforcement has stooped too in this country.

    March 23, 2012 at 1:00 am | Report abuse |
  3. mary

    Well, I keep thinking of all the ghost buster shows on tv. Where they record a evp and then keep telling some one the sound they hear is this word or that one..
    I usually hear nothing but static.. Then they say what they think the word is.. And Wa La~! YES I HEAR it too~!!
    And I KNOW there was no ghost, and I know that is all B..S...
    So Did zimmerman at that ? Did he not?
    Could be nothing more than the power of suggestion...

    March 23, 2012 at 4:57 am | Report abuse |
    • WMoonFox

      I agree with Mary. The EVP scam is pretty well-known, and demonstrates eloquently the power of suggestion. It is possible that neither outburst was uttered, and all you are hearing is the sound of an overweight man breathing heavily. Since you have already been primed to hear a particular phrase, though, coupled with humans' need to find pattern and recognition in even random noise, you will hear what you want to hear. Anyone who has studied EVP can attest to this rather interesting quirk of human nature.

      March 23, 2012 at 11:33 am | Report abuse |
    • Elliot

      I listened to it for the first time and I heard it CLEARLY. Why would anyone say otherwise unless you are hidding something.

      March 23, 2012 at 1:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • Courtney

      If he didn't say it then why hasn't he spoken about the situation in question???
      I heard it the first time it was played....they didn't have to tell me what it was.....although I am young and I have good ears...so............................

      March 23, 2012 at 1:16 pm | Report abuse |
  4. augustghost

    So now if you feel your life is threatened and you are in the heat of battle to defend yourself, you have to be politically correct and not hurt the anyone/s feelings? GIVE ME A BREAK..this country has become a joke and needs to stop pandering to the whiners all the time

    March 23, 2012 at 6:23 am | Report abuse |
    • Rell

      Treyvon Martin wasn't threatining Zimmerman's life....

      March 23, 2012 at 9:55 am | Report abuse |
    • pat

      The issue of the possible racial slur is not whether he hurt the feelings of the young man he killed, but, whether the killing falls under the federal hate crime statutes. If he said it then the federal government can prosecute, if not then it is local or state juristiction. You are however correct that if you get in a confrontation you must be politically correct or any problems arising from it will be much worse.

      March 23, 2012 at 10:09 am | Report abuse |
    • Courtney

      he was following him at that time.........................his life was not in "danger" at that point in time...................if he felt like his life was in "danger" he would not have followed Trayvon.................

      March 23, 2012 at 1:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • Garrett

      The heat of battle? How about you give me a break. Zimmerman was following this kid, and then the kid started running away. He went TO the battle and used a racial slur. If I was fighting someone I wouldn't call their mother a c***. There are things that you just don't say EVER. Maybe you could learn something from this story.

      March 23, 2012 at 1:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • Stephanie Hill

      "in the heat of battle?" Are you serious? Treyvon maybe weighed 140lbs, Zimmerman probably had 100lbs on Treyvon. Zimmerman pursued Treyvon, even after being told not to. There was no "in the heat of the battle" and whether he used a racial slur or not has everything to do with this case.

      March 23, 2012 at 2:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • mike

      the cops told him to stop following him in th 911 tape. he pursued and killed the teenager after using th racial slur. hope your kids don't like skittles too!

      March 23, 2012 at 8:35 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Deloris

    In many of our rural Florida Counties their are many injustices done upon young black men. As a mother of a young black male who was arrested because a neighbor said a black man broke into their home. I paid $1000 for bail and never received a penny back even though they found the person who broke in the home. Charges were dismissed. The local police in these small towns do what they want with the help of the prosecutors. I pray for the Martin Family. The department of justice and FDLE need to look into other Forida counties who have such a high rate of young black men being sent to prison for lesser charges than white males. It is sad that a young child had to die in order for racism to come to the fore front. Anyone who says that we are just whining need to walk in Blacks shoes before you can talk. R.I.P. Trayvon. Ur death will not be in vain

    March 23, 2012 at 8:55 am | Report abuse |
    • Ben

      I actually live in Sanford when I'm not away at college. It's not exactly rural, more of a suburb, and a fairly high-crime one at that. Sanford only has 50,000 people, but it's bordered all around by towns of a similar size, and has none of the hallmarks of a rural community. If this had happened in a rural place, none of us would likely ever have heard of it.

      March 23, 2012 at 11:25 am | Report abuse |
  6. devil's_advocate

    So much hate in the world, and injustice. Keep up the good work, remember the entire world is watching us. We are on a pattern of self-destruction and continue to fight, and hate over race. Which scientifically speaking should not exists, racism is a social structure put in place from your hate and ego's. And you wonder why your politicians are getting away with murder and corporations are robbing you blind, you are too busy hating each other and passing judgment on each to even care. The fact that he was running does not make this self-defense. this man was looking for a reason to shoot anyone and be a hero. You all need to get your acts together before you destroy yourselves over ignorance. Hopefully he is brought to justice soon. This is just another sign that the problem is not with the government, it's with the people.

    – Money rules the world, and rules your soul. The only way mankind can advance is to let money go.

    March 23, 2012 at 9:30 am | Report abuse |
  7. Kat

    It is clear as day. He used a racial slur. If Zimmerman is so innocent, why is he hiding?

    March 23, 2012 at 10:14 am | Report abuse |
  8. Joe

    geez.. Nice looking kid..sad..

    March 23, 2012 at 11:39 am | Report abuse |
  9. VA Finest

    People are you not looking at the entire picture? Yes if he said a racial slur, then yes the FBI will pick the case up. However, there is a young kid that is dead because of one misfit. He 911 operator told him not to follow this kid, and he totally disrespected authority and continue to follow him. Had he kept his behind in his car, then this young man would probably still be alive. People kill me taking the law into his own hands. Also, when did neightborhood watch people start carrying guns? Didn't this guy have a criminal background? If you listen to the ENTIRE 911 tape, I think you will find that Zimmerman is full of crap!!!! An it kills me that racisim is still out here!! We are the same, we bleed the same, we just have different color skin. So because my skin is dark, and yours is white that makes you better than me? Or am I beneathe you because I am black? This is about right and wrong!! And Zimmerman and these cover up cops are crazy. And they ALL should be locked up. And for the chief of police to step down temporaryly......well he should be fired!!!!

    March 23, 2012 at 12:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • VA Finest

      Also for his parents to say that he has other races in his family.....like that really makes a difference. At the end of the day, we cannot control what family we are born into. And just because there may be blacks, or any other race in his family doesn't necessarily mean that he likes them. Please!!!!! No wonder Zimmerman is the way he is. The apple doesn't fall too far from the tree. Because they are just as crazy!!!!

      March 23, 2012 at 12:09 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Rob

    its funny how if a black man killed a unarmed white kid, he would be tested for drugs, alcahol and questiond in a heartbeat, regardless of if he was a collage grad. Its sad how we as parents have to make sure our kids arent targeted for the clothes they wear or the color of there skin.
    Bottom line, Zimmerman and the police dept. should be held accountable.

    March 23, 2012 at 1:00 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Pangie Pantz

    That's what I hear too

    March 23, 2012 at 1:03 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Captain Martini

    Guilty as sin. He said it. Clearly. And he was following the innocent boy. If I had been that boy I would have been afraid of the idiot following me...and with good reason, since the idiot was carrying a gun and he killed the boy. The boy was right to avoid the killer. The killer said the racist words. I can hear it. He's guilty of a hate crime. And I'm a 52 year old white guy.

    March 23, 2012 at 1:50 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Stu

    Regardless of what was said, this man should be arrested. I think he over stepped the boundaries of the neighborhood watch and probably should not have been on it. I hear nothing that suggests the young man that died did anything to deserve being shot. He called 911 and should have left it at that and not followed. I'm sure Trayvon was just as frightened as it appears that Zimmerman was. I read these posts and some people are definitely biased by their racism. Don't be. Think about how you'd feel if this happened to your son, white, black, or whatever race you may be.

    March 23, 2012 at 1:58 pm | Report abuse |
  14. flag

    I have read everyone's input here and all I get out of it is....white guy killed black guy....What really needed to be said ....man killed kid and we need the justice/ law changed.........we will never be race "free" if we always start the conversation/arguement of black/white or white/black.....Everyone including the president of the usa which (he is doing for votes) is commenting and blowing their own horns over race instead of the lose of this kid. What a joke.................

    March 23, 2012 at 2:00 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Dustin

    I didn't even know what that word meant, or that it was even a racial slur, but I heard it. Had to google it to even know that it was a real word. I say that's what he said, because that's what I heard without even being aware it was a word.

    March 23, 2012 at 2:23 pm | Report abuse |
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