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. Mark

    Why blame it on CNN – it was not clear to me at all – let the grand jury sort this out

    March 21, 2012 at 9:02 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Rob

    I heard a racial slur but the whole incident was racial. Cops should be fired and this guy should get a chance to "stand his ground" in prison. Plus CNN sucks on this issue half of their articles say Zimmerman is white and the other half say he is hispanic. Is everyone involved with this situation just retarded or what?

    March 21, 2012 at 9:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • BMcGee

      You can be white hispanic or black hispanic. Hispanic is not a race, it's an ethnicity.

      March 22, 2012 at 12:52 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Heather

    So far, experts examining the 911 tape remain unsure if Zimmerman used a slur; the tape will surely be examined even more thoroughly to determine that. I understand the importance of knowing that in order to determine what federal investigative or proscecutorial role is appropriate.
    However, another important part of the 911 tape, in my opinion, is not being discussed – at least not that I am hearing. What are the other screams on the tape? I heard on a CNN report that there is a scream for help; if so, who is screaming that? If one of the parties is screaming for assistance prior to the gunshot, I would like to know which one. To me, that would go a long way to understanding whether the shooting was at all justified.

    March 21, 2012 at 9:05 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Beth

    First off, the dispatcher did not tell Zim not to pursue Martin. The dispatcher said, "We don't need you to do that," referring to following Martin. If Zim followed, that would not be illegal since he was never told not to follow.

    This was a disaster waiting to happen. This guy was patrolling around thinking he is protecting his neighborhood which had been burglarized several times. He certainly should have just called the police and leave it at that.
    However, right now, I don't think the public actually knows what happened. I can see Martin turning and jumping Zim, thinking he was stalking him. Then Zim shooting him, thinking it was self defense. Zim actually tells the dispatcher that Martin is coming toward him, "He's coming to check me out". If Martin started an altercation, then Zim is totally in the clear. That could very well be why the police did not even take this guy in for questioning. The police have issued statements on their webpage indicating this to be the case.

    The last thing Zim says to the dispatcher is, "Ok." Ok to the dispatchers remark, you don't need to follow. He's not exactly disagreeing with the police on this point.

    It is totally unclear what that second word was. To me, it sounded like F-ing punks. I seriously doubt your average Hispanic knows what is the derogatory meaning of c00n.

    One thing I noticed that stands out. Zim did not seem like he was loosing his cool or composure while speaking to the dispatcher.

    It is a tragedy for sure. But let the facts unfold before jumping to conclusions. At this point, all we really know as fact, is that T. Martin was shot and killed. Prayers to his family.

    March 21, 2012 at 9:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • icanthearit

      Beth just left the best post here. She is truly objective. Didn't think it was possible still in the USA these days.

      March 22, 2012 at 6:58 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Area Mann

    Yeah, very well could be.

    March 21, 2012 at 9:07 pm | Report abuse |
  6. T in Dallas

    Why isn't this guy in jail yet Florida? Clearly he said the slur and staged the 911 call to appear he was the one being challenged. How the Sanford PD was unable to clear this up at their level is laughable and any citizen in their jurisdiction should be concerned.

    March 21, 2012 at 9:08 pm | Report abuse |
  7. dc

    It may not have a lot of relevence, but Zimmerman looks Hispanic, which is what his family says he is.....

    March 21, 2012 at 9:13 pm | Report abuse |
  8. walkthetalk

    soon enough folks Zimmerman will be getting chased by his soon-to-be girlfriends in prison!

    March 21, 2012 at 9:15 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Spencer

    Its pretty obvious what he said. The police just don't want to admit it. The original version is plenty clear.

    March 21, 2012 at 9:16 pm | Report abuse |
  10. NCParalegal

    I hear the people of Florida coming together to vote out the people in office and the over turn of this law and many others. No matter what the outcome, Vote them out of power.

    March 21, 2012 at 9:16 pm | Report abuse |
  11. WhackyWaco

    Ya think his dad married a Mexican.

    March 21, 2012 at 9:20 pm | Report abuse |
  12. native

    it is quite obvious what this guy said.

    this is a murder and a hate crime.

    March 21, 2012 at 9:23 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Jason

    Even if he used a racial slur, what does it matter? He should be investigated based on the action he took (shooting the kid), not based upon what he may have said (1st amendment) or thought. This is precisely why I dislike hate crime laws – they take attention away from the fact that you should be investigating people based on their physical actions, not on their personal beliefs. Murder is murder, and personally I don't see how it's relevant about racial dislikes being involved; you charge him for killing a human being, not for killing a person of race. The minute you charge him "more" because of the race(s) of the suspect and victim, you are immediately putting a "higher value" on one race over another, which is where I draw the line.

    March 21, 2012 at 9:24 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Nolan

    The reason this is dragging on and on is not ZIMMERMAN, it's the POLICE. If Zimmerman is arrested then the police department automatically comes under INTENSE scrutiny. Don't forget, they are being accused of covering this up, including leading witnesses. The police HAVE to stick to their "guns" otherwise it's not just Zimmerman that has a problem! Notice how their response to this is the "Stand Your Ground" law. This is more than a murder, this is an official cover-up of a crime. That's why the governor and the mayor have been advised (possibley even threatened) by the DOA that no stone will be left unturned

    March 21, 2012 at 9:26 pm | Report abuse |
  15. fearlessdude

    According to a witness watching from her window, Trayvon was down on the sidewalk, face down, the thug was straddling him and shot him in the back in "self defense".

    March 21, 2012 at 9:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • Texan

      That obviously sounds fake.

      March 21, 2012 at 9:30 pm | Report abuse |
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