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. Ralph

    I will begin by saying that I am an African American male. I heard the enhanced version of the telephone call and listened to it repeatedly. Although it was very clear to me that the shooter said "f***ing", it is unclear what was said after. I don't think that this is going to be very useful in this case, but I do believe that the shooting was not justified for the simple fact that Mr. Zimmerman was told by the dispatcher not to follow Trayvon Martin. He disobeyed a direct and clear order, taking the law into his own hands. As Mr. Zimmerman initiated the confrontation, he cannot claim self defense in this case. Finally, I would like everyone to understand that deadly force can be used if there is IMMINENT DANGER OF SEVER BODILY HARM OR DEATH. Trayvon Martin did not present either of the aforementioned reasons for the use of deadly force. If Mr. Zimmerman was afraid for his life, he should not have followed Trayvon Martin. This is murder and an arrest needs to be made.

    March 21, 2012 at 4:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jeff O

      "IMMINENT DANGER OF SEVER BODILY HARM OR DEATH"... that's the way the law is written in most states...but not in FLA... and that is entire issue here. It may end up keeping a guy that, IMHO, should be charged, from being prosecuted.

      March 21, 2012 at 4:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • peggy holley

      Thank you yours was one of the most intellent replies on this site That boy was murdered for no reason other than the shooter was a racist power happy jerk arrest him and give that poor boy some justice

      March 21, 2012 at 11:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • peggy holley

      my reply was for you\Ralph

      March 21, 2012 at 11:32 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Drake

    People says lots of things when they're fighting. Racial "slurs" don't necessarily mean that his actions were racially motivated.

    Of course, the perpetually outraged crowd is immune to that kind of reasoning.

    March 21, 2012 at 4:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • imjustsayin

      Drake you are right, but unfortunately we cannot go by what a person was thinking or what we think their intentions were, we can only go by what we actually hear them say. You can sometimes add that with their actions to determine their intentions. But I do agree with you.

      March 22, 2012 at 8:30 am | Report abuse |
  3. NM Native

    No doubt, after listening 3 times he says fn koonz...How can a professional not hear that?

    March 21, 2012 at 4:04 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Penny

    Sounded like f-ing punks to me, but it is hard to hear. If the kid is running is it self defense?

    March 21, 2012 at 4:07 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Lila

    Looks like they are going to delete the comments that pointed out the word THEY asked if we heard. Weird and childish. Anyway, there are adults discussing this slur like adults on many different sites. They also have better audio if anyone wants to look for it. It is important for people to hear what he said without censorship so they can know his frame of mind before he killed Trayvon.

    March 21, 2012 at 4:07 pm | Report abuse |
  6. saywhat

    George Zimmerman!
    What sort of a Hispanic name is that?
    From what can be gathered for now, racism does seem a factor.
    I feel sorry for the family of the young victim.

    March 21, 2012 at 4:10 pm | Report abuse |
  7. liz

    I'm white, don't have the best of hearing and I heard him use a racial epithet.

    March 21, 2012 at 4:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • pauljack

      LOL! Great comment.

      March 21, 2012 at 4:18 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Linda Luttrell

    I believe you guys may be right. I got off the laptop and onto my PC with better speakers. BUT, what I am still hearing is that censored BEEP at "...holes" and "Sh...." This disturbs me that somebody definitely "censored" this tape before release: the police and or the news media. I want to hear the enhanced/UNCENSORED verson! The family and the public has the right to hear everything that this guy said to the police. It goes directly to motive! I noticed that police, of course, told him NOT to pursue the guy and he, of course, disobeyed them! WHY is he not behind bars???

    March 21, 2012 at 4:11 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Ralph

    Standing your ground means just that...STANDING YOUR GROUND! It does not in any shape, form, or fashion mean persue (or your own accord) and terminate.

    March 21, 2012 at 4:12 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Nina

    Why is Zimmerman still hiding? Face the media and tell your side, if you are so innocent! Speak through a lawyer, but stop hiding!

    March 21, 2012 at 4:17 pm | Report abuse |
  11. John

    I will be interested in seeing the results of the autopsy. They will surely indicate a number of things, including how far away the gun was from Trayvon when he was shot, the position of his body, and most importantly, whether he was shot in the back or in the chest. So far, I don't recall seeing anything about when the results will be published.

    March 21, 2012 at 4:21 pm | Report abuse |
  12. JoJo

    Maybe it said, "GOONS" that would describe the people who were responsible for the rash of break- ins in the area without playing the race card.

    March 21, 2012 at 4:32 pm | Report abuse |
  13. aertzc

    So basically nobody heard him say it except CNN?

    Great reporting guys.

    March 21, 2012 at 4:36 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Jeff O

    Do you have exclusive access to the autopsy report?
    What you claim flies in the face of two neighbors who said when they looked outside immediately after hearing the gunshot, Zimmerman was straddling Trayvon

    March 21, 2012 at 4:37 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Matthew Kilburn

    "He was shot in the back because he was running."

    Nice try...but no. He was shot once in the chest, and Zimmerman had injuries to both his nose, and the back of his head.

    March 21, 2012 at 4:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • Andulamb

      Zimmerman had injuries because he ran after Martin and assaulted him, and Martin fought back. It's not self defense when you attack a person and THEY fight back out of self defense. The attacker does not get to use self defense as an excuse.

      March 21, 2012 at 4:58 pm | Report abuse |
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