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.

“Zimmerman is not a racist," he told Velez-Mitchell. "George Zimmerman is a caring man.”

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. fred

    Where is Sharpton, Jackson, naacp or whoever where are they when it is black on black crime shooting murder. Only when its the other color kills a black person. I love all I'm just being equal to all.

    March 22, 2012 at 11:52 am | Report abuse |
  2. Drake

    You can't take race out of the situation.

    Race is the situation in this killing.

    March 22, 2012 at 12:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • Fred

      Heard on Good Morning America today that this teen was staying in this area because he was suspended from school..Do "upstanding" people normally get suspended from school? There are 2 sides to almost every story. before you make judgements find out all the facts. I'm not saying Zimmerman is right or wrong, just calling out all the judgemental people that think they know all the facts.

      March 22, 2012 at 12:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • YanYan Flye

      The killer was obviously wrong, but the father's language is indicative: "....had did..." says it all. The kid wasn't an angel and the killer wasn't a devil. It was a terrible misunderstanding but the issue here is the misapplicaiton of the "stand your ground law" and the inappropriateness of the use of deadly force. The kid probably did take humbrage to being confronted by Zimmerman, but an angry verbal exchange is no grounds for killing someone. Neither is a terrible crime grounds for all the media, race-baiters, and social cry-babies to thrust their agendas in the face of everyone else and assassinate the character of a man, his family, the police force, and an entire race (especially when they're not even attacking the race of the killer).

      March 22, 2012 at 6:51 pm | Report abuse |
  3. TiredODaCrap

    I feel for the family. Same state that let Casey Anthony go. Do you really think that a jury will get this one right???

    March 22, 2012 at 12:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • YanYan Flye

      Tired of Yo Crap: If you go to the Race-baiting Well too often you render all the civil rights work of the last hundred years meaningless and irrelevant.

      March 22, 2012 at 6:53 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Bill

    Same ol' redneck stuff ...welcome to Florida! Sad to see in this day and age. These neighborhood snitch/kick-butt patrols are just a way for these hatriot types to act out their wannabe cop fantasies!

    March 22, 2012 at 12:10 pm | Report abuse |
  5. JOSE0311USMC

    BLACKS NEED TO STOP ROBBING PEOPLE AND BREAKING IN HOMES.....PRIOR TO THAT SHOOTING , 4 HOMES WERE ROB BY 4 BLACK GUYS..I'M SURE THAT HAD A LOT TO DO WITH WHAT HAPPEN......BUT NO ONE IS TALKING ABOUT THAT.

    March 22, 2012 at 12:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • another1

      Trayvon did not break in to any homes. Trayvon only bought candy. Zimmerman acted as judge, jury and executioner and the cops were just fine with that. Justice has not been served.

      March 22, 2012 at 12:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • MEME

      jose, you should learn how to spell correctly first of all, second you are an idiot.

      March 22, 2012 at 12:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • derrick24

      doesnt make it right to shoot the next black person you see in the area guy...

      March 22, 2012 at 1:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • tharavard

      Jose I want you to know that ALL people steal, no particular race but all. As a black man I take offense to your comment and being a Marine am offended with you using MOS 0311. Don't put what is sacred to many in your name to talk the garbage you've said. Get it squared away!

      March 22, 2012 at 1:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • Samantha

      And white people need to stop being serial killers, rapist & money hungry. Trayvon didn't break into any one's house idiot.

      March 22, 2012 at 10:03 pm | Report abuse |
  6. max

    They should be protesting in Tallahasse to have this law amended. Its a License to Kill!!!

    Take the race card out of the equation. It was a teenager minding his own bussiness vs. a macho man with a gun looking for trouble.

    March 22, 2012 at 12:20 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Sara

    CNN – a few facts that you could look up as public record
    1. Were there actually a lot of break-ins in the neighborhood? And what does recent mean – does it mean last week or ever?
    2. If Zimmerman was asked not to follow – did the cops say that they were coming to get him?

    March 22, 2012 at 12:24 pm | Report abuse |
  8. jack

    Problem is the "stand your ground" laws. Zimmerman wanted to be Dirty Harry and caused this situation and made it get out of hand.

    Zimmerman needs to be prosecuted for murder and Stand your ground laws need to be gotten rid off.

    March 22, 2012 at 12:38 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Sketchee

    The police statement is ridiculous. It's up to a judge and jury to decide if it was self defense and weigh in the evidence. What evidence do they have that he was running an errand and that he did not confront the victim?

    March 22, 2012 at 12:46 pm | Report abuse |
  10. No Peace, No Justice!

    Mr. Zimmerman was told not to pursue the "suspect" and did not follow those instructions. Instead, he decided that he would handle the situation. How is this not murder? He said he felt threatened, when the 911 calls clearly indicate he was pursuing the suspect the whole time. This is infuriating, you should be OUTRAGED!!!!

    March 22, 2012 at 12:47 pm | Report abuse |
  11. woodofpine

    What they don't say is that Zimmerman was charged in 2005 with Felony battery on a law enforecement office which was pled down to a misdemenor where he was allowed to avoid trial and conviction by entering a pre-trial intervention program – presumably including 'anger management'. Swell guy to monitor neighborhoods!

    March 22, 2012 at 12:56 pm | Report abuse |
  12. atypical

    zimmerman may not be racist, but neither does he sound very competent. perhaps he has watched to many Rambo movies or something. his actions–no, his reaction to everything that led up to the incident seems extreme.
    this "stand your ground" ruling needs to be revisited and revised. it gives too much leeway to angry, paranoid, ignorant and reactionary folks.
    how ironic: the one who thinks his life is in danger is the one who is actually the dangerous one.

    March 22, 2012 at 1:00 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Ann

    I was not there and don't know who said or did what to whom and when, so I'm not going to touch on whether it was racist or whether the kid was threatening. I just don't understand why this guy felt the need to confront the kid. He'd already called the police.

    I don't want to live in a world where people just go up and "confront" strangers on public streets and sidewalks, people who are just walking along. What's next, needing to carry ID on us all the time? Maybe we should get microchips instead. Then every time we go anywhere, people can scan us and make sure we're "OK." And just imagine if someone had done that to Mr. Zimmerman in this case. "Who are you and what are you doing here?" The man was following a kid in his car and had a gun! To any third party who'd confronted and "checked" these guys, Mr. Zimmerman would have been the one to have been concerned about.

    March 22, 2012 at 1:15 pm | Report abuse |
  14. MEME

    JASMINE, you sound very bitter and you must not have any children(and if you do, lets hope nothing this awful ever happens to them). Your comments are ignorant, do you not realize you are talking about a 17 year old boy that is no longer on this earth? You are a disgrace and should be ashamed of yourself.

    March 22, 2012 at 1:24 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Illeagle-j1

    To those who will state that Zimmerman, was not racist because he too is a minority; get real, the worst racism is within One's own ethnic group, case in point the Irish, they both devolved from the same ape, yet when you visit Ireland, the locals are quick to point out where 30 some odd years ago So and So, was gone down by them bloody Irishmen. Come again? Racism exist in various guises, until the day when we can think of ourselves as People of the Earth, nothing more nothing less, Racism will continue to flourish. So those of you of the bright orange persuasion, have a nice day anyway:<)

    March 22, 2012 at 1:26 pm | Report abuse |
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