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. LW

    Its not a race thing its a right vs wrong situation he was wrong for continuously pursuing Martin even after being told regardless of the type of power a dispatcher possess he was looking for a confrontation instead of waiting for proper authorities to arrive and handle the situation accordingly. Zimmerman cannot claim self defense since he pursed Martin and proceeded to confront him so he initiated the contact when he should have remained in his SUV and from what some of the witnesses stated that called 911 it sounds as though some of the officers are trying to hide something because they were trying to correct her as she was making her official statement.

    March 22, 2012 at 9:45 pm | Report abuse |
  2. thomas e

    the kid punched zimmerman. I would have shot him too. Dad was visiting his girlfriend. yea right. One less gangsta

    March 22, 2012 at 10:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • Samantha

      Trayvon was fighting for his life & screaming for help. If he hit Zimmerman in the nose & head with his can of ice tea, so be it. Zimmerman asked for it. And his fat ugly ass is still walking around. Trayvon is dead for walking from the store with candy & a soda for his little brother. And by the way did Zimmerman get medical attention for his injuries & to prove self defense did the police take pictures of his injuries. This man is a liar & killed this child in cold blood. Arrest him, prosecute him, and make his fat ugly ass in the electric chair.

      March 22, 2012 at 10:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • tumblin

      Zim murdered and will pay for his thirst for conflict.

      March 23, 2012 at 10:54 am | Report abuse |
    • Lisa C

      With racist like you no wonder this country is in an uproar!!!!

      March 23, 2012 at 4:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • Roberto

      Thomas e, may be it would do you a world of good to reverse roles here. Imagine you were Trayvon, would you expect to be shot for "hitting" somebody? Did you also call Trayvon a gangsta, as such concluding that the world is a better place without him? How would you feel if somebody passed such a judgment and a sentence on you? Do you realize by this position you have declared to the world that it is OK for anybody to categorize you and by his own reckoning, rid the world of you? My friend the golden rule is a potent force in the world. I pray it spares you of your lack of knowledge.

      March 31, 2012 at 5:03 pm | Report abuse |
  3. CMR

    Those who cry racist need to look into a mirror to see a big one.

    March 22, 2012 at 10:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • JOSE0311USMC


      March 23, 2012 at 10:14 am | Report abuse |
  4. Jake

    The question I have looked for and never found what in the hell was he doing in a GATED COMMUNITY in the first place
    all I hear is he was on his way home from a 7 Eleven after getting s soft drink, give me a break, I have lived in them and
    most of the time you have to know the combination or have someone let you in OR climb over the fence and check out
    what is available, this kid is said to have a perfect record, well maybe he just did not get caught.

    March 22, 2012 at 10:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jake

      Check it out the first thing is what was he doing in a Gated Community, in the rain, maybe checking the flowers for watering or something, people will always have an excuse when they off the beaten path when they get caught and then being black its all racism again, been a white boy never would of heard of it hitting the national press.

      March 22, 2012 at 11:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • public servant

      I think your response to this tragedy is highly inapprotiate, and it a perfect example of bigotry and hatred in this country. I sickens me to have served this country, only so that people like youself can to have the freedoms and rights continue to spew poison into the air of this country. Like the guy who comittedd this murder,"YOU ARE A COWARD"!!! Without this computer separating you from the real world, you would not have the stones to say these things in the presence any of the men that I served with and know. Only a coward or pervert picks fights with little kids. If you want your moneys worth, pick a fight with a grown man and not a child.

      March 23, 2012 at 3:23 am | Report abuse |
    • public servant

      This kid was doing the same thing in that gated community as anyone else who lives in that community; he was minding his business until his life was taken by a terrorist!!!!!!!! Any more questions?

      March 23, 2012 at 3:29 am | Report abuse |
    • Fems

      Okay even if we just for arguments sake agree he had no business being in a gated community – does that mean you have to shoot and murder him -err God help you if ever stray into a so called wrong area and someone decides to murder u for it

      March 23, 2012 at 10:09 am | Report abuse |
    • JOSE0311USMC


      March 23, 2012 at 10:16 am | Report abuse |
    • Michael

      Either you are illiterate or just plain dumb. Trayvon’s father and step mother lived in the community. Quite frankly it doesn’t matter whether the kid was black, white, Puerto Rican or Chinese; you just don’t walk up to someone and ask them what they are doing here. I heard about this story when it first happened and I thought O.K. let’s wait until all the facts come out. Now with all the evidence that is being presented Zimmerman should be charged and arrested. If a jury of his peers, comes to the conclusion that he acted in self defense or committed murder, then at least it went through the system.

      March 23, 2012 at 10:20 am | Report abuse |
    • Lisa C

      @jake...he was on his way home!!!!

      March 23, 2012 at 4:03 pm | Report abuse |
  5. vja

    Are you saying that black people don't belong in that neighborhood, so shooting them is okay??? Was this Zimmerman dude a cop? You don't have to be completely racist, pull a black man over because he's driving a car that you don't think he should be able to afford. Stop a black man in a gated community because you don't think he should be able to afford to live there nor know anybody that lives there. This is how white people and other non-blacks think when they see a black man, they think a crime, so they clutch their purses. If that had of been a white guy walking in the rain in that neighborhood high on crack or meth standing nude, nobody would have done nothing, he wouldn't have gotten shot nor stopped.

    March 23, 2012 at 1:55 am | Report abuse |
    • Lamont

      I know a LOT of black people that will cross the street when another black person comes their way. Its not just non blacks who worry about unknown own black men.

      March 23, 2012 at 12:00 pm | Report abuse |
  6. vja

    Anniegirl racist is in your blood, decades a racist family members of yours. You were born into it girl, so ofcourse you think like you do. It would take decades for white people to make up for all the years of slavery, so no you don't deserve the same outrage

    March 23, 2012 at 2:17 am | Report abuse |
    • Lucretia

      Sorry, vja. Racism is not found "in the blood," prejudice stems from your mind. It doesn't matter what your ethnicity or "race" is, prejudice is found in all of them–whether you are white, black, latino, asian, african, or middle eastern. Ignorance is found everywhere. Your comment can be construed as racist. People should be held accountable for their own actions; they have no control over the crimes of their ancestors, their government, and what other people do.

      March 23, 2012 at 7:23 am | Report abuse |
  7. Cesar The Chorizo Chimp Of Chihuahua

    Now maybe Zimmerman will mind his own business.

    March 23, 2012 at 9:42 am | Report abuse |
  8. JOSE0311USMC


    March 23, 2012 at 10:25 am | Report abuse |
    • JayB

      With a name like Jose one would think you would be more understanding of racial profiling. You might want to think twice before making such ignorant statements like the one you to effect of "most black teens" having guns. That's like me or someone else on this board saying that "most hispanic men" are illegal immigrants that are in gangs. Now doesn't that comment sound ignorant? Think before you speak or is that too much to ask? The real issue at hand isn't about race. It's about the murder of an innocent youth under the guise of self-defense. Zimmerman had no right to play judge and executioner. The bottom line is that he should be tried in front of a judge or jury of his peers.

      March 23, 2012 at 2:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • Lisa C

      @Jose….you are he ultimate idiot and you obviously don’t have kids!!!!! He was being followed…what 17 child and he is a child is going to do that. What GROWN MAN would do that? I have seen you comment on every article about this child and you are intent on spreading hate!! I hope you don’t teach it. I cant believe you are a Unites States Marine

      March 23, 2012 at 4:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • gc

      Martin had no idea he was a community watch guy, who was not supposed to be carrying a gun either. (Nor was he supposed to be on his shift at the time)
      Mama always told me to run as fast as you can from stranger danger and scream for help!
      This child told his GF "wait I think someone is following me" he never said to her "WAIT THE POLICE OR A MAN IN UNIFORM IS FOLLOWING ME" That baby had fear in his heart and knew he was going to die, so he prolly said to self let me at least try and protect myself IF he catches me. We all heard that baby crying and screaming for help!
      What part about this is it that you can not seem to understand?

      March 23, 2012 at 4:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • LYJS

      Wow! Are you really this stupid? Martin had no obligation to answer Zimmerman's questions or to tolerate being stalked by Zimmerman. According to all accounts I have heard, Zimmerman was a SELF APPOINTED neighborhood watch captain. Martin had just as much right to 'Stand His Ground' as Zimmerman is trying to assert he did.

      March 23, 2012 at 4:28 pm | Report abuse |
  9. bob

    Lets not all rush to judgement. Let the facts play out and not play on each others words. How can someone say it was racist? Minority on minority crime is racist? Do we actually know what racist means? I hear good things about both the victim and the perpetrator. Which one is the victim here? We do not know yet...Let the facts play out...there are two families affected by this tragedy. Lets not throw gasoline on a fire.

    March 23, 2012 at 10:35 am | Report abuse |
    • Lamont

      Of COURSE there will be a rush to judgement. Just like the Duke lacross case.

      March 23, 2012 at 12:03 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Hispanic

    Give me a break! There are many hispanics that are racial towards other races. Him being hispanic does not mean a thing. Racism does exist from hispanics towards blacks. I have seen and heard this all my life living in Florida. That defense is ludicrious. Shooting that boy was an unwarranted act. That man has to be charged! At the very least murder in the 2nd degree, because he pursued an innocent man with prejudice and force. Hearing the tapes in which the boy yells for help just breaks my heart! I have a young son, and would hate for him to be profiled like this when he grows up. I can just put myself in that boy's mind his last minutes, being pursued, confronted, and having an unknown man point a gun at you as you are not doing a thing wrong.

    March 23, 2012 at 10:36 am | Report abuse |
  11. Kelly MacIsaac

    Thomas e: Your mentality will land YOU in jail eventually. Get real!!!!

    March 23, 2012 at 11:25 am | Report abuse |
  12. Courtney

    Just because 8 homes were robbed, all by Blacks according to them, does not give this man a right to shoot and kill any black man that comes into the neighborhood. The police told Zimmerman not to pursue Trayvon, but he did anyway, because he was looking for trouble to happen. He had become paranoid and prejudicial against black males because of those incidents, which I understand, but he was still wrong. He wanted to play superhero or play cops with a person's life and needs to pay the price.

    March 23, 2012 at 11:49 am | Report abuse |
  13. Al

    You can argue about this shooting until your blue in the face – The bottom line – Police ignored proper procedure for handling a serious crime.
    "Ignorance and Stupidity is still legal"

    Hopefully – when the boys parents sue the city and police department – the award to the parents will bankrupt the city.
    Anyone looking to hire out of work moron city officials or cops?

    March 23, 2012 at 6:30 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Cindy

    There are so many sides to this. If it were a white kid dead and black shooter, he would have been arrested immediately. I don't see how Zimmerman can pursue and confront an unarmed kid and then call it self defense. If Trayvon hit the guy since he was being pursued by someone with a gun he acted in self defense. Then there is the stereotypical picture of a gangbanger (ie hoodie) which is going to get you perceived as a gangmember and you take that chance. I know white kids in Denver that can't wear red or blue because they'll get perceived as a gangbanger and they choose to avoid that by clothes decisions. I think the gangbangers across America are causing more pain and death than all the guns combined and Trayvon paid for it with his life. The level of fear that everyday citizens are having because of gang activities is making everyone paranoid and acting accordingly. Gang violence is the root of this evil in so many ways and restricting legal and righteous gun owners is not the answer to that problem.

    March 23, 2012 at 7:56 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Fred

    CNN reporting stinks. Lets start with the pictures. They have plenty of normal photos of Zimmerman. So why use the worst one and zoom in to make it look more menacing. Just how old is the photo of Martin? There is very light coverage
    of Florida's "Stand your ground" gun law that is why Zimmerman is not in jail. I assume CNN is also afraid of the NRA.
    This is a normal event in Florida! Road rage shooting occur constantly. "Gee I was in fear for my life" Drug dealers shoot folks all the time with the same story. So while the media hypes the story and the taxpayers fund multple investigations. The end result will be the same. The people that belong on trial are the politicos that the NRA bought to get the law passed to start with.

    March 23, 2012 at 7:58 pm | Report abuse |
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