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. Summer

    Jasmine, the kid has never been in trouble. He got good grades in school. His teacher spoken highly of him. In his photos, he has a peaceful, joyful look in his eyes. He was doing nothing wrong. He deserved to make it home safely. Not every kid has a "not-so-flattering side" to them. Would it make you feel better that he was murdered if you knew that he wasn't perfect? Well, I' sure he wasn't perfect, but he did NOT deserve to die the way he did.
    Zimmerman may not be a racist, but he clearly has issues and he does deserve his day in court.

    March 21, 2012 at 2:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dechen

      I agree.

      March 21, 2012 at 2:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • JOSE0311USMC

      I SEE IT ALL THE TIMES ON POLICE STORIES...POLICE STOP A CAR WITH BLACK KIDS AND THEY OPEN THE DOOR AND START RUNNING.....I'M SURE ZIMMERMAN TOLD THE KID TO STOP AND THE KID RAN...PRIOR TO THAT SHOOTING , 4 HOUSES WERE IN THAT NEIGHBORHOOD WERE ROBBED BY 4 BLACK GUYS.....NO ONE IS TALKING ABOUT ???

      March 22, 2012 at 12:26 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Brian

    "The teen started to run, Zimmerman reported. When he said he was following, ..." END OF STORY! someone running AWAY from you is NOT a threat to you! I believe that is the evidence the Sanford Police department was looking for that refutes Zimmerman's self defense claim. ZIMMERMAN ADMITTED, ON TAPE, TO POLICE THAT HE WAS NOT IN DANGER!!

    March 21, 2012 at 2:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • una amiga

      Brian – you hit the nail on the head!! Running away from a creep is not a crime. And Trayvon even told his girlfriend he was going to "walk fast". Zimmerman isn't a cop and had no authority to stop anyone.

      People who watch cop shows and think they're experts are bigited, racist and STUPID!!! Yes, TV is not a good place to learn about socialogy....read a book

      March 22, 2012 at 5:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • JOSE0311USMC

      IF MARTIN WAS SMART?? HE WOULD STOPPED AND ANSWER ZIMMERMAN QUESTION, END. NO SHOOTINGS.

      March 23, 2012 at 1:09 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Barb

    I'd just like to know, for right now at least, has this Zimmermans right to carry a gun been taken away from him at least or can he just do this again and again????

    March 21, 2012 at 2:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • AL in West Palm Beach

      let's hope he still has a gun...that way, anyone can do exactly waht dick cheney did in that hunting trip and claim self-defense.

      March 21, 2012 at 3:01 pm | Report abuse |
  4. PumpNDump

    The wingnut, zimmerman, attacked the young boy. End of story.

    March 21, 2012 at 2:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • Robbie

      Then how did Zimmerman's nose get broken? How did his head get split open? Why did Zimmerman (Z) have grass and mud on his BACK, like he'd been tackled? I wasn't there or anything, but using a little logic, Zimmerman was on his patrol (which they setup after multiple break-ins), saw someone wandering around in the rain without rain gear in the dark mumbling to himself (with Martin's hood up, Z couldn't see his earpiece to know he was on the phone) in a private, gated community, and called the police. Z followed M, and was then asked if he was following M, they said they didn't need him to, and then immediately after that M confronted Z. Listen to Z's 911 call. The last thing he talks about is M coming to confront him (Z), not the other way around. The initial police reports (which are important because they didn't have all the media bias) say that Z was screaming for help. I guess we'll see where the investigation ends up.

      March 21, 2012 at 3:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • JOSE0311USMC

      ACCORDING TO WITNESSES , ZIMMERMAN WAS PUNCHED ON THE FACE...

      March 22, 2012 at 12:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • Suzy Q.

      Robbie, where in the world do you get your info? Z had a broken nose...where are the medical reports? He did not seek med attention! Nor did the police get pictures of his so called injuries! The initial police report does not say anything about his injuries! Now we hear about grass stains on the shirt, why isn't the shirt in evidence? BTW...on the previous break-ins, how is it known they were blackmen? If someone saw these crimes in progress, why didn't they call George?

      AND one more question....how did a part time student and neighborhood watchman LIVE in this upper class area....WHAT WAS Z DOING THERE???

      March 23, 2012 at 10:20 am | Report abuse |
  5. Prairie

    This may be murder or self defense. It certainly is a sad story. It is a public lynch mob by internet fueled by media – If you were not there you can not state what happened it is only your personal perspective driven by gossip and hearsay. The media look biased in setting up inaccurate visual perceptions in reporting I wish the media would update the pictures of Trayvon instead of using his jr. high football picture, he was a 17 year old man. The media has also reported the shooter – as white and as hispanic which is it. I will leave judgement to those whose job it is to investigate and determine if a crime was committed. Throw your stones, but you are setting the stage for future justice by facebook. You may be next.

    March 21, 2012 at 2:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • Brian

      Zimmerman stated, in the 911 call, that Martin was running away from him. Are people making that up? It doesn't matter white/black, age, pictures, etc. He chased the kid down, by his own admission, and shot him. Do you pursue people you perceive as a grave threat to you? It is the public asking for justice for a minor.

      March 21, 2012 at 2:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • Moham

      A 17 year old is still a kid, you don't reach manly status until age 18, which this kid will never see...Pearl, you say we were not there, If Zimmerman had not CHASED Trayvon down he would not have been there either.What was the boy suppose to do when a STRANGER stalkes and chases him down? do you really think he was suppose to peacefully surrender? how did he know if this sicko was an abductor or not, however it did turn that the moron was indeed a killer.also look at the picture of the kid in the purple shirt, taken about 3 weeks before his death,. he had just turned 17.

      March 22, 2012 at 10:17 am | Report abuse |
  6. Chuck

    Turf war between hispanics and african-americans in Florida?

    March 21, 2012 at 2:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • ivnprt

      more like wannabe Hispanics

      March 21, 2012 at 4:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • skpfrmdc

      ....you just plain stupid or what?

      March 22, 2012 at 2:20 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Gumdrop08

    It's sad and I'm sure much of what is being told isn't the truth; however, if George didn't do anything wrong I don't see what the problem would be if his gun was taken to run tests. I don't understand why this case isn't being presented to grand jury to review to see if charges need to be filed. A thorough investigation needs to be no matter what; however, sadly some people will never be satisfied. I wasn't there and the people that can explain what happened aren't and can't talk. It's easy to read the newpaper or listen to reports and form an opinion but it takes a bigger present to wait until all the facts are presented before making a decision either way. No matter the outcome a child is still dead!

    March 21, 2012 at 2:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • Rick

      Just wondering Gum...

      Do you know HOW to read???? Gun tests? Grand Jury? I do mean it... seriously... do you know how to read?
      A Grand jury has been set... The justice department is doing an investigation... These facts HAVE been reported.

      March 21, 2012 at 2:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • Moham

      If Zimmerman was feeling threatened , he would , by instinct retreat,not engage .

      March 22, 2012 at 10:24 am | Report abuse |
    • JOSE0311USMC

      8 HOMES WERE BROKEN INTO IN THAT NEIGHBORHOOD BY OTHER BLACKS......IT WAS ZIMMERMAN JOB TO FIND OUT WHAT THAT BLACK KID IN AN ALL WHITE NEIGHBORHOOD WAS DOING THERE ....MARTIN MAKE A STUPID MISTAKE.....MARTIN WON'T BE CONVICTED FOR GOING AFTER THE KID...HE DIDN'T HAVE TO STOP THE CHASE.

      March 23, 2012 at 10:33 am | Report abuse |
  8. Massman

    Was the person at the convenience store interviewed and video tape from said convenience store reviewed? I'm sure nothing will be found, but I'm interested to hear what that person has to say seeing that they were the last person to see Trayvon alive before Zimmerman. Even if they said that they saw nothing out of the ordinary I think it has some significance.

    March 21, 2012 at 2:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • christine

      what could the convenience store clerk say that would relevant in any way?

      March 21, 2012 at 6:17 pm | Report abuse |
  9. christey123

    Florida and the other eleven or so states that have the Stand Your Ground laws should act fast to repeal these laws. Or at least amend the laws so that the force used for one's defense" needs to be commensurate with the threat. And it should not be based on what the shooter subjectively believes, it should be based on information known after the fact...otherwise, a delusional person who thinks you pose a threat to him gets off scot free because he subjectively believed that you were a threat.

    March 21, 2012 at 2:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • JOSE0311USMC

      WRONG..REPEAL THAT LAW , WHY ? IS A GOOD LAW......THAT LAW SEND THOSE WHO BREAK IN PEOPLE HOMES A MESSAGE...DON'T MESS WITH US..

      March 23, 2012 at 2:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • JOSE0311USMC

      MARTIN, WAS BEATING HIM UP. HE HAVE THE RIGHT TO DEFEND HIMSELF...WHICH IS WHAT HE DID....MARTIN WAS 6-3 FEET TALL A GIANT....ZIMMERMAN ONLY 5–7......ZIMMERMAN WAS CHASING HIM, BUT ONLY BECAUSE MARTIN WAS RUNNING......ALL MARTIN WANTED, WAS TO ASK HIM A QUESTION...

      March 23, 2012 at 2:23 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Ageis3

    Zimmerman was told to disengage. He did not. He had a gun. The kid did not. The situation was preventable by Zimmerman. He chose to engage against police advice. The responsibility for the boy's death is Zimmerman's.

    March 21, 2012 at 2:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • brianbythesea

      911 operators are not Police officers but simply dispatchers with ZERO field experience. You are not required to follow their comments.

      March 21, 2012 at 3:04 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Moman

    One thing that has not been mentioned in any of the reporting that I would like to know is. How big is George Zimmerman? I'm sure he is bigger than the kid he murdered. For instance if he weighs 200 and followed and pursued this kid. His whole story of being scared for his life from an unarmed kid is ludicrous. The Sanford Police Chief and the DA should be investigated for dereliction of their sworn duty for classifying it as a justified self defense, regardless of their no retreat law. It seems by looking at the picture of Zimmerman that he is a big guy and the kid obviously is very slender.

    March 21, 2012 at 2:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • christine

      it's been mentioned in previous reports. He outweighed Trayvon by about 100 pounds – and was about 7 inches taller than him.

      March 21, 2012 at 6:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • Moham

      According to reports, Zimmerman weighed about 250 pounds, with a gun ,,and the kid weighed about 140 pounds, armed with a bag of skittles. { , Pretty scary , huh?]

      March 22, 2012 at 10:29 am | Report abuse |
    • JOSE0311USMC

      MARTIN WAS 18 YEARS OLD...180 POUNDS--6 FEET 3 INCHES TALL A GIANT.........ZIMMERMAN, 5–2

      March 23, 2012 at 2:12 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Linda Luttrell

    This man shot an unarmed child. I have to bring into question several things here: As a member of a Neighborhood watch, how well was he trained, not only in weapon handling, but psychologically. I don't understand why if he was that upset by this child's presence near him WHY he did not stay calm and on the line and let the police handle what he THOUGHT was an incident...this appears to be another case of an overzealous citizen trying to do the police's job for them. And again, another person has been needlessly murdered. Whether this is racial or not, only the shooter knows in his heart for sure. That is why, at a minimum, a complete criminal investigation needs to be accomplished here to answer everyone's questions. My heart goes out to the family at this time. I hope you find answers and ultimately peace.

    March 21, 2012 at 2:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • onlythefacts

      You called this murder, so you think Zimmerman thought "oh that stand your ground law means I can follow this kid and kill him"?

      March 21, 2012 at 3:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • JOSE0311USMC

      ZIMMERMAN IS ALREADY GUILTY WITHOUT A TRIAL......REMEMBER O.J. ?? HE WAS ALSO GUILTY BEFORE A TRIAL......REMEMBER CASEY ANTHONY ? SHE WAS ALSO GUILTY BEFORE THE TRIAL......I HOPE IF IT GOES TO A JURY THAT NO BLAVKS ARE ALLOW ON THE JURY....BLACKS HAVE FOUND ZIMMERMAN ALREADY GUILTY.

      March 23, 2012 at 2:15 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Getoveritagain

    You, I, any of us but Zimmerman will ever know what really happened. Quit being sheep, reading this garbage, and making judgements based off of biased reporting.

    The only crime here is how the black propaganda machine throws the racism card right off the bat. This time they stepped in it not researching Zimmerman's own ethnic background and community ties. Well played morons. But I guess another black on black or hispanic on black crime does not bring the camera's to give these paranoid blow hards the publicity they want.

    March 21, 2012 at 2:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • una amiga

      getoveritagain – you do realize you're a racist p*g, right?
      go get your white sheet and meet with your other small p*nis friends, maybe it will help you feel less impotent.

      March 22, 2012 at 5:35 pm | Report abuse |
  14. brianbythesea

    cars kill people, alcohol kills people, and cigarettes kill people too. who else should be put on trial??? you?

    March 21, 2012 at 3:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • Tammy

      You're joking, right?

      March 21, 2012 at 3:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • viki

      You make no sense!!! this man killed someone...shot him....

      March 21, 2012 at 4:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • B K

      I AGREE..FIRST OF ALL,WHY HE IS NOT ARRESTED?SECOND,PUT HIM AGAINST THE WALL AND SHOOT HIM.....HE TOOK SOMEONE'S LIFE,SO NOW TAKE HIS.

      March 22, 2012 at 5:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • JOSE0311USMC

      VIKI–NO ONE KNOW WHAT REALLY HAPPEN....WHAT IF MARTIN GAVE ZIMMERMAN THE IMPRESSION THAT HE WAS GOING FOR A GUN ??? POLICE SHOOT UNARMED BLACK KIDS ALL THE TIMES FOR THAT REASON.....HE LOOK LIKE HE WAS GOING FOR A GUN AND WE SHOT HIM...HAPPEN ALL THE TIME TO POLICE.

      March 23, 2012 at 10:28 am | Report abuse |
    • JOSE0311USMC

      WHAT IF MARTIN PUT HIS HANDS IN HIS POCKETS ?? OR INSIDE HIS JACKET ? POLICE SHOOT BLACK KIDS ALL THE TIMES FOR DOING JUST THAT.

      March 23, 2012 at 1:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • ivnprt

      what about guns ?

      March 21, 2012 at 4:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • c

      Whaaaaat?

      March 21, 2012 at 4:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • NoJustice

      What?!?!?!

      March 21, 2012 at 5:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • christine

      a pack of Marlboro's won't chase you through a neighborhood on a rainy night and shoot you.

      March 21, 2012 at 6:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • Damon

      nor will they say your on some drugs or something

      March 22, 2012 at 12:18 am | Report abuse |
    • Chaos

      @ christine "a pack of Marlboro's won't chase you through a neighborhood on a rainy night and shoot you."

      The addiction its manufacturer creates will follow you around for life and probably end it.

      I know, off point, just sayin'. The post you responded to was really pathetic.

      March 22, 2012 at 9:22 am | Report abuse |
    • JOSE0311USMC

      BAND CIGARETTE SMOKING...I WOULD SUPPORT THAT 100% ..OUR INSURANCE PREMIUMS WOLD GO DOWN...

      March 22, 2012 at 12:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • Felipe Lopez

      Do us all a favor and check yourself out of the gene pool.

      March 21, 2012 at 10:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • HeidiLiz

      Whaaaaat?????

      March 22, 2012 at 1:32 am | Report abuse |
    • Chaos

      If stupidity were a crime, you. Based on what you wrote.

      March 22, 2012 at 9:12 am | Report abuse |
    • Alex

      Yes all of those things do kill people, but it's the person behind those items that put the events into motion that cause death. People drive the cars, people drink the alcohol and smoke the cigarettes. They make a conscious choice to do those things and sometimes not responsibly thereby causing harm to themselves and others. I think you're comparing apples to oranges here.

      March 22, 2012 at 9:21 am | Report abuse |
    • Moham

      Wrong,,.... those things you mentioned do not kill people, the action and misuse of those things kill people. just as the so called action of this self appointed watchman { stalker,,, who wasn't really a part of the watch group at all, according to the group themselves, }did on Feb 26 in a gated community in florida.

      March 22, 2012 at 10:00 am | Report abuse |
    • maggie

      Boy if that wasn't a stupid comment, I don't know what is.

      March 22, 2012 at 12:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • MEME

      you sound so pathetic, people kill people, and if alcohol and all that "kill" people that is their own personal choice to kill themselves. STUPID.

      March 22, 2012 at 12:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • una amiga

      brinabythesea – you realize that doesn't even make any sense? If you have special needs let us know and maybe we'll cut you some slack. I'm assuming you do

      March 22, 2012 at 5:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • Samantha

      People who kill innocent children that who. Cars don't carry guns, alcohol don't carry guns & cigarettes don't carry guns. Humans carry guns. In answer to your question, Zimmerman should be jailed and put on trial.

      March 22, 2012 at 9:29 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Lori

    People kill people... not the guns. If you have a permit, know the laws and understand that you must do everything possible before using the gun this should not have ever happened. Also he was running away from Zimmerman: YOU CAN NOT SHOOT A FLEEING PERSON! End of subject!!!!

    March 21, 2012 at 3:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • JOSE0311USMC

      HE GOT SHOT AFTER THEY BOTH WRESTLE ON THE GROUND...DUH. KNOW THE FACTS LORI.

      March 23, 2012 at 2:09 pm | Report abuse |
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