March 21st, 2012
12:52 PM ET

Florida shooting: What we know about Trayvon Martin, George Zimmerman

The death of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed teen who was shot while walking in his neighborhood in Sanford, Florida, has sparked allegations of racial profiling and calls for the gunman to be charged.

Federal prosecutors and the FBI will investigate the incident. George Zimmerman, the neighborhood watch volunteer who has acknowledged shooting Martin, has not been charged and says it was self-defense. The incident has sparked widespread debate about Florida's "Stand Your Ground" law as well as numerous protests in Martin's honor.

As the story continues to grip the nation, here's what is we know about the key people in this story and why both families believe their sons have become victims.

Trayvon Martin and his family

Trayvon Martin, 17, was killed after he went to the store for candy and a soft drink.  In the wake of his death, his parents have sought to make sure the world does not forget their son, and they have asked for justice to be served by calling for Zimmerman's arrest.

"He was into sports. He loved playing football. He loved watching football. He loved basketball," his mother, Sybrina Fulton, told CNN. "He loved to eat everything in your house. He loved music. He loved kids. He loved to babysit and wash cars and (was) just a normal kid."

Brian Paz, Martin's friend, told CNN affiliate WFTV that he will miss having Trayvon around.

"He was a happy, smart person," Paz said. "He was joyful."

Paz told WFTV that his friend was a peaceful kid. And that is why he finds it so confusing that Zimmerman thought he was threatening when he noticed him walking in the neighborhood and began to follow him.

"He's a peaceful person," Paz said. "He was actually really quiet when he didn't know a person, so I wouldn't describe him as threatening."

There's not one thing in particular Paz said he will miss about his friend - it is everything.

"Chilling with him every weekend, just having him around me," he said. "That's what I'm going to miss about him."

Trayvon's parents say the whole incident has been devastating.

"The whole world sees this is a tragedy," Tracy Martin, the boy's father, told CNN. "It's sad as a father to have to bury your child. As a parent, you never want to imagine about burying your kids, and for me to have to bury my son is sad."

And they hope they will find justice soon. Their cries for an arrest sparked a social media movement to try to draw attention to the case.

"I'm so very hurt, but this whole situation is a nightmare, and I don't understand why this man has not been arrested - ­ at least charged - and let a judge and jury decide if he is guilty," his mother said at a press conference.

Trayvon's family said they believe race was a factor in his death, fueling an outcry in the racially mixed community 16 miles northeast of Orlando.

"If Trayvon had did the shooting, he would've been arrested," his father said. "He would've been arrested on the spot."

George Zimmerman

Not much is known about the man at the helm of the neighborhood watch group and at the center of the shooting controversy. Zimmerman has remained quiet as the story has reached critical mass.

Zimmerman, 28, saw Trayvon in his neighborhood and called 911 to report a suspicious man, authorities said.

"Something's wrong with him. Yep. He's coming to check me out," Zimmerman told a police dispatcher in a 911 call released Monday. "He's got something in his hands. I don't know what his deal is. Send officers over here."

The teen started to run, Zimmerman reported. When he said he was following, the dispatcher told him, "We don't need you to do that."

Shortly afterward, neighbors began calling 911 to report a fight, then a gunshot. By the time police arrived, Trayvon was dead. Zimmerman insisted that he was acting in self-defense when he shot the teen.

In a police report, Officer Timothy Smith said Zimmerman stated he was "yelling for someone to help me," but the victim's family said it was the teen asking for help.

The death has sparked allegations that Zimmerman took Florida's "Stand Your Ground" law too far by chasing after the teen. Police added that while it was suggested Zimmerman not chase him, it is "not a lawful order that Mr. Zimmerman would be required to follow."

"Mr. Zimmerman was not acting outside the legal boundaries of Florida Statute by carrying his weapon when this incident occurred," Sanford Police Chief Bill Lee said in a newly released statement about the investigation. "He was in fact on a personal errand in his vehicle when he observed Mr. Martin in the community and called the Sanford Police Department."

Lee added that Zimmerman had a permit for the weapon he was carrying.

Zimmerman had called police several times in the past few years to describe similar circumstances in which he believed someone in the area might be up to no good. When he called police on the night of the shooting, he said there had been a history of break-ins in the area.

Zimmerman's family has denied allegations that race played a role in the shooting, saying he has many minority relatives and friends. In a statement to the Orlando Sentinel, his father said Zimmerman grew up in a multiracial family. A police report describes him as a white male, but his family says he is Hispanic. CNN has made numerous attempts to contact Zimmerman but has been unsuccessful.

The 28-year-old is currently enrolled as a part-time student at Seminole State College, according to Jay Davis, the director of communications and media relations at Seminole State. Davis said records indicate Zimmerman was a general education student pursuing a two-year associate's degree.

Zimmerman has moved out of his home after receiving death threats, according to his father's statement to the Orlando Sentinel.

“The tragic events of February 26 are very sad for all concerned. The Martin family, our family and the entire community have been forever changed," Robert Zimmerman said.

He also strongly disputed the characterization of his son following the incident.

"The portrayal of George Zimmerman in the media, as well as the series of events that led to the tragic shooting, are false and extremely misleading. Unfortunately, some individuals and organizations have used this tragedy to further their own causes and agendas," his father said in the letter to the newspaper. "George is a Spanish-speaking minority with many black family members and friends. He would be the last to discriminate for any reason whatsoever. One black neighbor recently interviewed said she knew everything in the media was untrue and that she would trust George with her life.

"Another black neighbor said that George was the only one, black or white, who came and welcomed her to the community, offering any assistance he could provide. Recently, I met two black children George invited to a social event. I asked where they met George. They responded that he was their mentor. They said George visited them routinely, took them places, helped them, and taught them things and that they really loved George. The media portrayal of George as a racist could not be further from the truth."

Frank Taaffe, a neighbor and friend of Zimmerman, told HLN's Jane Velez-Mitchell that his friend was only inquiring about why Martin was in the area, considering there had been documented incidents involving young black men in the neighborhood committing crimes. But he insisted that in no way did Zimmerman target Martin.

‚ÄúZimmerman is not a racist," he told Velez-Mitchell. "George Zimmerman is a caring man.‚ÄĚ

Robert Zimmerman also added that in no way did his son confront Martin and he hopes soon that everyone will be outraged by how his son has been treated. He said he and the family will have no further statements.

soundoff (446 Responses)
  1. jojo

    Let me put my hoodie on, so nobody sees my face and o can't be identified. Smart move.sorry bro. Stand your ground , shoot hoodies first, ask questions later.

    March 21, 2012 at 1:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • seeutoo

      It was raining....and hoodies don't cover your face genious, are hoodies illegal now?

      March 21, 2012 at 2:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • seeutoo

      yes, I spelled *genius wrong...epic fail.. haha

      March 21, 2012 at 2:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • Margaretta Bir

      I'm an old white woman who was young when a bunch of men killed a 12 year old boy because he whistled at a white woman. Now, some other individual can kill a young man who sounds as if he was more focused than a 28 year old who is stikll pursuing a two year degree. Sadly after 60 years the police are still not doing anything! I want everyone to think about something – if it was a gated community why was it necessary that some "volunteer" be out patroling with a gun.

      March 21, 2012 at 2:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • Joefrombuffalo

      "Shoo hoodies first, ask qustions later"?????? Is that what they teach you at the Klan? We'll be readiing about you next

      March 21, 2012 at 2:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • js

      Shoot now and ask questions later ? That is the perfect response from someone who must be a gun wielding idiot
      comments like that give all responsible gun owners a bad name just like the murderer Zimmerman. stand your ground laws are evil

      March 21, 2012 at 2:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • Joefrombuffalo

      "Shoot Hoodies first, ask questions later". Bill Belichek, watch your step.

      March 21, 2012 at 2:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • Joefrombuffalo

      "Shoot hoodes first, ask questions later." Bill Belichek, watch your step.

      March 21, 2012 at 2:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • anonymous

      you'd be the first person i put a cap in if that's the way you think.

      March 22, 2012 at 10:06 am | Report abuse |
  2. jojo

    Cops in New York City shoot unarmed hoodies all the time. Why? Because the chance of being shot by an armed teen there is very real. So who goes home to their family boils down to who is quicker on the draw. Unfortunately.

    March 21, 2012 at 1:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mathew

      See, but Zimmerman is not a cop.

      March 21, 2012 at 1:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jen

      And a tiny suburb of Orlando is very much not NYC.

      March 21, 2012 at 1:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • McJones

      Hey jojo - I understand where you are coming from, but this isn't NY and George wasn't a cop. Also, New York, thankfully, has no "Stand your ground" law. Can you imagine what kind of panic that sort of law would cause? It tripled 'justifiable murders" in FL - it's wrong in any state, but just imagining that in Detroit or New York, makes me shudder in dystopian fear!

      March 21, 2012 at 3:18 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Jen

    1.) It was raining that night, so what's so wrong with putting on his hoodie? 2.) Zimmerman was NOT a cop. And he was not in NYC. This kid was holding nothing but skittles and iced tea, Zimmerman deserves to be arrested. The dispatcher told him to leave the situation alone, but Zimmerman wanted to play a cop role for some reason. He's a sick man who deserves to be punished for his stupid actions.

    March 21, 2012 at 1:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • John Doe

      Good point

      March 21, 2012 at 1:58 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Talonjh

    He had a hoddie on because it was raining.

    March 21, 2012 at 1:55 pm | Report abuse |
  5. David

    I do believe that, if Trayvon had wrestled the gun away from Zimmerman, he would be sittng in jail right now!

    March 21, 2012 at 1:58 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Jasmine

    since everyone is speculating about Zimmerman, why not do the same for the kid-We will probably find out that he and his homeboys are at the core of all the recent robberies/break-ins in that neighborhood!!! Ha! Wouldn't that be ironic! I say lets compare fingerprints.

    March 21, 2012 at 2:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • Realist

      Trayvon was there visiting. He doesn't live there.

      March 21, 2012 at 2:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • banasy¬©

      Nice sterotyping there.

      March 21, 2012 at 2:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • bruh_bear

      Stop smoking Meth Jasmine. The young man was just visiting...... Why not arrest the shooter if nothing else to "protect" him

      March 21, 2012 at 3:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • McJones

      Jasmine, he's passed. That's not funny. Not even close to funny. You'd have to assume the criminals would just wander around with tea and skittles. Your comment should be removed.

      March 21, 2012 at 3:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • Come on now!!

      Since the police have been so quick to defend this guy, don't you think they would've pulled trayvons record out? How do you know his fingerprints haven't already been compared! Hate all you want but your just a fool. Timothy McVeigh blew up a federal building and killed women and little kids. Why doesn't the government profile every blond haired, gun carrying, low cropped white man they see? Trayvon was a victim of profiling and he didn't do any thing wrong the night in question.

      March 21, 2012 at 3:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • Durand

      You know Jasmine, it is better to be thought a fool, than to open your mouth and remove all doubt!

      March 21, 2012 at 4:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • Idiots-R-Everywhere fit the (Idiots-R-Everywhere) montra to a T. We can't speculate about Martin because he was murdered for "walking while black". A crime in your moronic world. You seem to forget the speculation issue is what got ZIMMERMAN in this mess in the 1st place. Even if Martin attacked Zimmerman he would be within his rights because he was being stalked by some wierd unknown guy with a gun!!!

      March 21, 2012 at 5:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • MEME

      who says homeboys anymore old hag

      March 22, 2012 at 1:07 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Renee

    Jasmine, he wsan't from the area. He was visiting his dad. Not every black kid runs with a gang of homeboys.

    March 21, 2012 at 2:05 pm | Report abuse |
  8. The Evangelist

    Stand your Ground doesn't apply to this!!!!! How can you feel threaten when you get in the car and following a person.. Come on now..!!! this is call MURDER!!!!!! He should have been arrested right then!!!!

    March 21, 2012 at 2:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • bruh_bear

      Bless the Lord Evangelist!!

      March 21, 2012 at 3:19 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Puhleez

    This is what the rightwing radicals have brought this country to. We now have to argue that it is ok to wear a hoodie, walk home from the store, question armed strangers who follow us, etc.. I remember watching Breitbart threatening "we have all the guns". Maybe this is the time to start threatening them back. They say "from my cold dead hands". Maybe we should oblige.

    March 21, 2012 at 2:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • AnnieGirl

      Without sounding RACIAL- since every time someone dare questions something they are- the fact is that people do get stereotyped because most of the time that is what you see and hear day after day on the news, etc- with shootings, drive-bys, etc. I'm not saying there isn't white, hispanics or any other race that doesn't have the same thugs- we all know this is true- but near where I live in Cincy, OH- the majority of the time it's black males near/around downtown and Cincy suburbs. it is what it is- and for me to feel that way doesn't make me a RACIST either! As well, I'm not condoning this man's behavior but we should KNOW ALL THE FACTS before just instantly saying it's a HATE crime! I can't believe how the media has jumped on this bandwagon as well as our federal govt! Just get Jesse Jackson, Al Shapton, etc involved and look out! Next time I see a white person shot by a black person I expect to see the same outcry! This man doesn't stand a chance!

      March 21, 2012 at 2:48 pm | Report abuse |
  10. banasy©

    The enire high school in my neighborehood would be in prison right now if wearing hoodies in inclement weather was a crime.
    I wear hoodies, myself.

    March 21, 2012 at 2:07 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Jasmine

    Finally, a story that reveals the truth about Zimmerman. I guess that can dispel the myth that he is racist. Darn! What is Jessie Jackson and Al Sharpton going to say now????

    I'd like to know more about this kid. The liberal left of the media seem to only have pictures of this kid in his football uniform and holding a baby. And, the only picture of Zimmerman that they show is his mugshot!!! Typical biased media reporting. My guess is that there is another not-so-flattering side to this kid. But of course we won't know about that because then the story wouldn't be so controversial. When can we see a picture of Zimmerman smiling and holding a baby (maybe a black relative???).

    March 21, 2012 at 2:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • Daniel

      Well the reason for that is because Zimmermans family is hiding so the only picture they could find is one on file, while Trayvons family is providing pics they have of him

      March 21, 2012 at 2:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • bruh_bear

      The mugshot wasn't from that incident he was not arrested was he? Oh I knew you were a Republican. Sad to live in the bubble.

      March 21, 2012 at 3:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • back to the old south

      Thank you Jasmine for showing that you not only are a fool, but a racist fool. I know, you've got black friends so you can't be racist! Oh, by the way, the Zimmerman guy has a violent background and even some of his neighbors were scared of him. So, that makes you a liar and a racist.

      March 21, 2012 at 11:09 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Bill

    No doubt, he should be arrested and a jury should decide his fate. He obviously initiated the confrontation, and should have merely called the police and left it at that. Now to call it a hate crime or to state that he is a racist is impossible to determine. It sounds like he was a wannabe cop who was doing more than he should, caused a confrontation, and shot someone when he freaked out.

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

    Nobody says homeboys anymore..That was a definitely a failed attempt to sound cool. It was very lame.

    We don't have to speculate regarding Zimmerman the evidence is in his 911 calls. That clearly shows that Zimmerman pursued Martin. What's left to speculate? So if they did compare fingerprints and it's proven that Trayvon was not involved. Then what are you going to come up with?

    Folks are beyond bold hiding behind computer screens.

    March 21, 2012 at 2:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • AnnieGirl

      probably because you dare question such a situation involving a black person and you are automatically pegged as a racist! Pretty sad it doesn't work both ways!

      March 21, 2012 at 2:50 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Susan

    Mr. Zimmerman's purported actions, IMHO, are out of proportion and therefore unnecessary, in contrast with the steps taken by Mr. Martin. His (Zimmerman's) comments to the 911 operator, and his choice to not follow Mr. Martin seem unwarranted and unjustified. Therefore, I hope he will be arrested as this case is investigated.

    Shame on Mr. Zimmerman!

    March 21, 2012 at 2:11 pm | Report abuse |
  15. 1900s

    I heard Zimmerman's friend say this was a perfect storm. Well, it seems it was and we're in the eye of it. The second wind should include Zimmerman being charged criminally for taking a boy's life. Zimmerman was obviously dedicated enough as a neighborhood watch captain to put himself at risk. An important but often disregarded part of that risk is dealing with the consequenses of making a bad decision. The risk has been actualized and he made a grave mistake; now he needs to be accountable.

    "There are good deeds and there are good intentions.And they're as far apart as heaven and hell."
    B. Harper

    March 21, 2012 at 2:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • dancingjellyfish

      very well said...sane and concise...Thank you!

      March 22, 2012 at 8:17 pm | Report abuse |
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