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. DUH

    Clearly they are trying to determine whether he uttered a racial slur to determine whether this was a hate crime...

    March 21, 2012 at 5:45 pm | Report abuse |
  2. bush

    zimmerman is white. the surname "zimmerman" is of german origin, so he's white. Anyway, his race doesn't change anything. He's should have called the cops, that's why we have trained police officers.

    March 21, 2012 at 5:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • JB

      Wow, great logic there. I know white women named Reyes and Martinez because they married a hispanic man. Does their last name make them hispanic all of a sudden? For all we know, George's hispanic mother married after he was born and so he took his stepfather's last name. Martin is certainly not an African name, it's an english name. So by your logic this is a white on white crime and all this fuss is over nothing.

      March 21, 2012 at 5:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • marywestmacott

      He was adopted.

      March 21, 2012 at 6:02 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Judy K

    Of course Zimmerman used a racial slur. This man is a psychopath and a menance to society. He was convicted of a misdeameanor, attacking a police officer. Really, he got away with that offense. In his distrub mind, he will get away with this one and call it self defense. Zimmerman, should be incarcerated. His demons might tell him to destroy someone else. BE CAREFUL FLORIDA, A KILLER IS ON THE LOOSE.

    March 21, 2012 at 5:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • Linda Luttrell

      Wondered about that when I saw the "orange" shirt...is that a DOC picture???

      March 21, 2012 at 5:49 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Linda Luttrell

    I care if he used the slur or not. It definitely points to motive! Un unarmed kid is dead, really?

    March 21, 2012 at 5:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • tyrell

      First word rhymes with TRUCKING and starts with an "F". The following word rhymes with GOONS and starts with a "C". NO doubt about it.

      March 21, 2012 at 7:25 pm | Report abuse |
  5. jeremy

    If the kid was running away and he shot him, specifiacally after the dispatcher told him not to follow him, then zimmerman should be held acountable for his actions and charges should be pressed.

    March 21, 2012 at 5:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • Economystic Extraordinaire

      the dispatcher did not say do not follow him. he said we don't need you to do that. AND he said that for Zimmermans protection. for all the dispatcher knew at that time the kid may have had a gun (he has his hand in his wasteband). Zimmerman kne the area and the situation he has the chioce to continue followiing the suspect if he choses, but if he had gotten shot then it was not the dispatchers responsibility any more.

      March 21, 2012 at 7:31 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Jason

    In Florida If you call someone a name and they punch you in the nose do you get to shoot them know self defense?

    March 21, 2012 at 5:57 pm | Report abuse |
  7. johnny

    "zimmerman" surname is of german origin. Google it. In fact, "Zimmerman" means "Carpenter" in German, and it's a common surname in germany and in the USA. So this dude is white. facts are facts. anyway, it's irrelavent to this case. regardless of george's race, he should have let the cops do their jobs.

    March 21, 2012 at 6:02 pm | Report abuse |
  8. marywestmacott

    Honduran and adopted

    March 21, 2012 at 6:09 pm | Report abuse |
  9. CGriff

    Sounds very much like he muttered a word that rhymes with trucking, followed by a word that starts with a C. Regardless of the motivation, Florida's self defense laws do NOT authorize you to pursue and confront someone before deciding you have to shoot them. The events leading up to the incident clearly indicate that Zimmerman was the initial aggressor in the situation, so they need to arrest this guy and put it before a jury to decide if the shooting was justified.

    March 21, 2012 at 6:10 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Paul

    This guy should be in jail even with the ridiculous Florida "you can shoot unarmed people" law and he clearly targeted Trayvon because he was black. However, I don't hear a racial slur in there. What I heard was "f*ing punks". The "punks" isn't very clear but it doesn't sound like any racial slur I've ever heard. What slur do people think he said?

    March 21, 2012 at 6:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bill Wilson

      Hey Brain-Dead,
      Florida's law does NOT say you can shoot an unarmed person. It is a legal staement of the Natural Law of Self-Defense. An unarmed person can not be shot under the law unless the aggressor is physically far superior to the victim and the victim has NO alternative to self-defense other than shooting the aggressor. Ignorant human you are.

      March 21, 2012 at 6:36 pm | Report abuse |
  11. johnny

    Zimmerman is not hispanic. let's get the facts straight here. What does wikipedia say about the surname "zimmerman"? read it yourself:

    Zimmerman derives from the German last name Zimmermann which means carpenter. Within the United States, it is ranked as the 441st-most common surname.[1] Above all, the final "n" was seen as redundant in new countries of immigration where English was spoken. As a part of routine, German names were often Anglicized or simplified by immigration officials upon entry.

    Simmerman – a variant of Zimmerman.
    A Y-DNA Project exists for this surname.

    As you can see, Zimmerman is of German Origin. So Zimmerman is white. It's irrelevant to the situation, his race doesn't change anything. He still should have let the cops do their job

    March 21, 2012 at 6:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • Betsy C

      @Johnny. I can't believe I have to explain this to you but a person's surname does not necessarily indicate their ethnicity. Adoptions, name changes, there are so many reasons why a person may be Hispanic but not have a Hispanic sounding name. Sometimes I think people have lost all their common sense

      March 21, 2012 at 6:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • jim

      Incorrect. Hispanic is not a race. Zimmerman could be white Hispanic.

      March 21, 2012 at 7:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • tyrell

      what? Germans are not known to be racists? Hahahaha!!!!!!!! the 20th Century showed them to be the most RACIST of all EVER!

      March 21, 2012 at 7:21 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Rachel

    Yes, I did hear a racial slur. Somewhere around 2 minutes into the call, I heard Zimmerman utter a word that rhymes with "bucking", followed by a word that begins with the letter C. Zimmerman ought to be charged with a hate crime on top of premeditated murder.

    March 21, 2012 at 6:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bill Wilson

      Rachel,
      Look in mirror – Brain Dead looking back.

      March 21, 2012 at 6:38 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Karl

    The US Census Bureau classifies people according to race AND whether they are Hispanic or non-Hispanic. Thus, someone can be white Hispanic (as Zimmerman's family has said Zimmerman is) or black Hispanic. And therefore it is technically correct to refer to Zimmerman as white, just as it is technically correct to refer to him as Hispanic or white Hispanic.

    When a white person or persons of northern European heritage attack someone who is Hispanic, the national news media refers to the white as white and the Hispanic as Hispanic. (You can confirm this with a quick search.) But when someone who is white Hispanic attacks someone who is black, the national news media sometimes omits the fact that the attacker is white Hispanic and simply refers to him (or her) as white, while referring to the victim as black.

    March 21, 2012 at 6:29 pm | Report abuse |
  14. DC

    Zimmerman should be in jail because he instigated the altercation and shot/killed an unarmed man. Zimmerman said he felt threatened, but the facts don't back that up. According to the audio tape and witnesses, Zimmerman was the threat.

    March 21, 2012 at 6:45 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Mack

    Florida let Casey Anthony walk free. I'm sure they'll let this murderer walk free too. That state is a joke.

    March 21, 2012 at 6:54 pm | Report abuse |
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