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. Rpeti

    So what if the kid was suspended from school. that does not mean he is a criminal. and yes he may have hit zimmerman, but what would you do if some stranger was chasing you in the dark? BTW Zimmerman was arrested and had a restraining order filed against him (charges were dropped) just saying, he has a history also

    March 22, 2012 at 1:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jamie

      No kidding. I was suspended from school on a few occasions myself. I'm a white female, all honor roll throughout grade school. Doesn't make a difference, teens will be teens. It doesn't make them criminals nor does it mean they deserve to be shot to death.

      March 22, 2012 at 1:50 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Kwmcbride

    There was a killing! Police could have and should have arrested Zimmerman. Florida won't touch Zimmerman because they protect "rich white people" from "blacks." Thank God for Federal hate-crimes statues. Justice will be served and this case will change society forever.

    March 22, 2012 at 1:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • mr S

      You characterize the latino neighborhood watch dude as "a rich white guy". Darlin' I don't know a lot about this guy, but I do know he ain't in *the 1%%. He's probably not even in the *50%*..

      Everyone is tossing around race. Justice should be and hopefully IS blind to race. I trust that The Grand Jury returns their verdict not on race, not on, what "Clay Aiken" thinks they should do, but on (a) the letter of the law, and (b) the facts in evidence, as presented by the prosecutor.

      I do think it was a good move the the State's Attorney to entrust the decision to the GJ. Let's hope the decision is impartial.

      Having said all that, I'll also add I grieve for this family, people who had every right to expect their child could walk safely to and from the local store. Still another example of how a gun-toting society only *feels safer*, when comparison to non-gun-toting nations clearly show the converse is true.

      March 22, 2012 at 2:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • Tom

      Since when was any Hispanic considered a rich white person?

      March 22, 2012 at 3:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bea Miles

      Has anyone asked the question. Was trayvon hands bruised from punching this man. Did his clothes show signs of a struggle. What was the liquid on Zimmerman. What did Zimmerman say caused his injuries. Did he get hit with the can. Was the crime scene checked for evidence? If the police department can not answering these basic questions NONE of them involved should EVER be allow to so call serve and protect in Law enforcement again. Plus the number of what Fl calls Justified killings has tripled because of this law. Deadly Force!! for a Fist, a can of tea and a bag of skittles

      March 22, 2012 at 3:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • Connie

      Uh, Zimmerman is not white.. He's Hispanic..

      March 22, 2012 at 4:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mik

      I agree it was a killing and he should be charged. Stop making this a race thing. The man had blacks in his family and it has been verified that he was very friendly to blacks. He became overzealous, commited murder and needs to go to jail.

      March 22, 2012 at 4:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • Joe Blow

      Well, Zimmerman is partially white, which is white enough to say he's a racially motivated white guy, I guess. Let's put him on trial for murder, which in Florida potentially carries the death penalty. But if he's found guilty, we'll only execute Zimmerman's white half. We'll give his Latino half community service or something. The poor Latino half of Zimmerman was probably only driven to do what he did because of White racism...

      But seriously... you think this is more about race than Zimmerman's stupid behavior?

      March 22, 2012 at 5:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • dancingjellyfish

      Sanford is a far cry from a 'rich white' neighborhood and Zimmerman is Hispanic. Ignorance is ignorance and you perpetuating it is ignorant!

      March 22, 2012 at 7:58 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Emil

    .......Thou shalt not kill, ....... and if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. – Romans 13:9

    March 22, 2012 at 3:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • stevetundra

      Yes ... and the bride and groom ride off into the sunset and live happily ever after. If only these weren't just fantasys

      March 22, 2012 at 9:11 pm | Report abuse |
  4. your not the law

    NONE OF US ARE ABOVE THE LAW INCLUDING NAACP & KKK YOUR NOT ABOVE THE LAW EITHES SO WATCH IT.

    March 22, 2012 at 3:46 pm | Report abuse |
  5. BA Opinion

    People should stop making this about race and make this about justice. An unarmed teenager walking home was shot by an armed self-appointed idiot. He chased the young man down and then screamed "self-defense". This screams injustice. Zimmerman should be locked up and there should not be any doubt as to why would be behind bars. Murder is murder plain and simple. If any state should know this, Florida should. I wouldn't move to that state even if I was offered a promotion.

    March 22, 2012 at 4:09 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Ray

    Not so much race, but big guy vs little guy... big guy doesn't have a scratch on him but was afraid of the little guy. But, he's brave enough to confront the little guy... Then shoots to kill and walks away without a scratch on him... This is not right. No mater how you look at it I can't find any justification for this guy to walk around free.

    March 22, 2012 at 4:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • Donald

      How little was he? The press is using old pictures? Just a thought.

      March 22, 2012 at 4:29 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Donald

    Why does the press use old pictures of Trayvon Martin. I seems like it is easier to sympathize using pictures of a ten year old rather than a seventeen year old who, as his family describes him, eats all the food in the house. My next door neighbors kid is seventeen, into sports, and is 6 foot 3 220lbs. Why isn't it reported why Trayvon was pacing back and forth in front of a residence rather than walking home. Why isn't it reported who lived at the residence and did Treyvon know them. There are so many unanswered questions to this case that I could not with good conscience associate with these people who demonstrate like a village after Frankenstein.
    Trying a person in the press is wrong because if George is found innocent, no one will retract the hate that is displayed so publically

    March 22, 2012 at 4:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • una amiga

      Donald – maybe no one's reported those things because they're not true.
      Zimmerman wanted to be a big hero and killed a kid instead.
      He should rot in jail until the time comes for him to rot in hell

      March 22, 2012 at 5:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jess

      Trayvon was walking back to his father's fiances house to watch a game with him.

      March 22, 2012 at 8:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • CMR

      Thank you Donald for expressing reason. The LAW is what rules the land not the villagers with torches and rakes...good picture you gave there. So true. Shame on people who are QUICK to JUDGE. It is sad that another young life which could have been lived for good is now in eternity.

      March 22, 2012 at 10:31 pm | Report abuse |
  8. una amiga

    I wish they'd stop showing pictures of that jerk Zimmerman. He's as ugly as could be and creeps me out.
    Maybe CNN is hoping people will recognize him and take care of things? Tempting but not appropriate.

    If Zimmerman gets away with this, it will be a stain on Florida, on Stanford, on each and every cop that was involved and on White Hispanics. And it will show what a racist travesty our justice system is.

    Zimmerman was the aggressor here – there's no question. He wasn't in his car when he called 911 and wasn't when he attacked Trayvon. Stand your Ground doesn't apply.

    Trayvon's mom is right – he was all of our sons. We all owe him justice. We owe it to every kid in America.

    My prayers are with Trayvon and his family – may God hold him on the hollow of his hand

    March 22, 2012 at 5:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • Majesty Rene'

      una amiga BRAVO ! BUENO ! BUENO! WELL SAID !

      March 22, 2012 at 8:54 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Atompkins

    He is a want to be whiteman a want to be cop he is a killer of a black child and his day will come.

    March 22, 2012 at 6:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • stevetundra

      Sounds like you were there and know every detail!! Or are you just the dumbest slug on this planet and you only know how to run your mouth. I'm sure you must be living off the Government (i.e. everyone's tax money).

      March 22, 2012 at 9:03 pm | Report abuse |
  10. LF

    It's funny how everyone seems to imply that white and Hispanic are mutually exclusive. Hispanics, people of Spanish descent are white, the word is misused in the States. Zimmerman looks mixed-race to me. I would never describe him as white. But in your definition, he could be Hispanic.

    March 22, 2012 at 6:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • Samantha

      White, black, hispanic, yellow, green, blue & red. What about human. This idiot & lunatic is a killer, simply as that. A want to be cop and a child killer. I don't care if Trayvon was 10 feet tall, he did not deserve to die at the hands of this killer. This lunatic should be arrested and prosecuted for 1st degree murder. This ugly coward is hiding out now, Oh killer you're no longer concern about who is walking in the neighbor. No one know what really goes on inside a person's head, but the phone call & Zimmerman own words give us all some insight to what was on his mind. KILLER, KILLER, KILLER.

      March 22, 2012 at 9:14 pm | Report abuse |
  11. The truth will set you free

    What synagogue does Zimmerman attend?

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

    This is not a racial issue..the NAACP should step aside and stop throwing tantrums like toddlers. Zimmerman pursued and was overzealous in his apprehension. That is the issue at stake and must be treated as such. I hate the fact that every little thing in this country is twisted around to spur hate. I am black and I don't see why this is degenerating into a racial issue. We all need to grow up and let the law take it's course. Last time i checked Zimmerman was Hispanic more likely our cousins

    March 22, 2012 at 7:55 pm | Report abuse |
  13. GEORGE

    I HATE WHAT HAPPEN FOR BOTH FAMILY. AFTER READING WHAT GEORGE ZIMMERMAN BLACK NEIGHOR SAID ABOUT THE MAN ZIMMERMAN IT IS CLEAR THAT THE NEWS NETWORKS ARE BLOWING THIS SAD EVENT INTO A RACE PROBLEM TO HAVE RATING. ZIMMERMAN MAY PROVE TO BE WRONG IN HOW HE CARRY OUT HIS PART. ONE THING IS CLEAR RACE WAS NOT HIS REASON FOR HIS ACTION.

    March 22, 2012 at 8:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • Samantha

      Yeah, keep fooling yourself. This idiot is a racist & a lunatic. All racist hide their true colors until the light shines so brightly on them, there no place to hide. Like I said keep fooling yourself. America was founded on racism and it continues to this day. We all know it, but black people know it better than any people in America.

      March 22, 2012 at 10:16 pm | Report abuse |
  14. stevetundra

    Why is race even important here?!?!?!?? One citizen killed another. We just need to find out the facts and make sure the law is being applied correctly. If we don't like the way this law works, then let's move to change it. BUT DON'T TURN THIS INTO A MEANINGLESS CIRCUS EVENT!!!!

    March 22, 2012 at 9:00 pm | Report abuse |
  15. stevetundra

    I actually think Martin looks like a pretty nice kid in his photo and Zimmerman looks kind of like a thug.
    Does it sound like I'm prejudging or being racist against Zimmerman.
    I happen to be a caucasian!
    I guess I'm supposed to think that Martin looks like the guilty one.
    Sorry to disappoint all you folks that like to cry racist!!!!

    March 22, 2012 at 9:08 pm | Report abuse |
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