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. Rooster Cogburn

    I think if you give any untrained person a firearm and ask them to provide security as a volunteer, they may abuse their authority. That is why law enforcement agencies train their officers to react in a more professionally trained or level headed mentality, which I doubt Mr. Zimmerman was able to compel in the heat of the moment. I think Mr. Zimmerman let the "excitement of the chase" overwhelm him, and led to a unfortunate death. I don't think it is racially motivated, because the color of one's skin, had it been a black person shooting Mr. Martin, the words racial profiling or hate crime wouldn't come up. It's an unfortunate situation, especially since the 911 operator instructed Mr. Zimmerman not to pursue Mr. Martin. I feel Mr. Zimmerman should be held accountable, but should he be arrested and allowed to post bail, like anyone of us? What do you arrest him for? To me it's fairly obvious as I stated above, he reacted in an untrained manner, that ultimately resulted in death. And until it has been proven otherwise, that the shooting was not in self defense, Mr. Zimmerman will remain free. The grand jury will prevail in their findings, and if Mr. Zimmerman has been disproved that the shooting was not in self defense, or is in fact racially motivated, he will not walk out of that court room, if he is there, otherwise, law enforcement will pick him up immediately and he will be jailed, and I hope he is jailed, I think it is just a matter of time. Rest In Peace Mr. Martin, you and your family are in the world's prayers...

    March 21, 2012 at 3:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • Pearl

      Who said he was untrained? I have a CCW permit here in Ohio and I have MORE training than local police do. Local police usually only train with their weapons ONCE a year. Some departments push out training every 3 years. And that's the only time they handle/train with their weapon. I shoot WEEKLY in my township. Unless you know for a fact that he is 'untrained' I would refrain from saying that. It may be that he is more training than you know.

      March 21, 2012 at 3:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • JOSE0311USMC

      THEY SAY THAT HE WAS UNTRAINED TO MAKE HIM LOOK MORE GUILTY...WHAT PROOF DO THEY HAVE OF ZIMMERMAN GUN TRAINING ????

      March 23, 2012 at 2:07 pm | Report abuse |
  2. infonomics

    The police said, Zimmerman had blood on his nose and back of his head. Does anyone on this forum have any additional information about these wounds?

    March 21, 2012 at 3:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • infonomics

      The police said that Zimmerman...

      March 21, 2012 at 3:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • Michael

      Does it really matter? I HOPE that martin defended himself instead of just being gunned down like an animal. If someone with a gun who is not a cop comes over to "question" me, I will definitely fear for MY life, and will defend myself as I see fit. Thats MY right. Where are the rights of Martin? Seems all that matters is Z. was following the letter of the law.

      March 21, 2012 at 3:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • msyellarose

      Most likely wounds from T. Martin trying to fight him off. If a man twice your size came after and cornered you with a gun in the dark, would'nt you try to fight back? This child probably thought he was being assaulted and was fighting for hid life.

      March 21, 2012 at 3:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • august washington

      NPR has been reporting since yesterday that Zimmerman was arrested in 2005 for assaulting a police officer. I have yet to read that info on CNN.

      March 21, 2012 at 3:27 pm | Report abuse |
  3. onlythefacts

    There is nothing wrong with the law in Florida. Zimmerman followed Martin, he did not have to do that. I think he mitigated his right to self defense and could be construed as the aggressor. Also, I am sure Zimmerman didn't think "Oh the law is Florida says I can kill this guy and claim self defense" before he followed. As usual with the media and weak minded liberals, they are politicizing this and using it for their own benefit. This was a tragedy.

    March 21, 2012 at 3:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • ew

      A 17 year old athelete who was minding his OWN business walking home from buying some skittles is DEAD. What agenda does that cover? To belittle this situation by saying the 'left is this'...or the 'ignorant and educated are that' is sad.
      Those that respond that way are the very ones politicizing the entire issue. If the young athlete would have carried a lacrosse stick...and his name was Brad, this a) would not have happened and/or b) Mr Zimmerman would have been immediately arrested and his latin heritage would have been more prominently reported. Because he handled himself poorly and over reacted is why the child is dead. Ignorance of the law is not an excuse, and he needs to be held accounted...PERIOD

      March 21, 2012 at 4:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • Conan

      Does Zimmerman chase after someone whom as he claimed, made him afraid for his life if he doesn't have a gun?!? I think not. This is what's wrong with the Florida law. It's not weak minded liberals that are the problem. In this case, it's the weak minded assailant/aggressor, Zimmerman, who holstered gun made him feel like a much tougher man than he probably is, and an even weaker minded police force/DA's office for not making his argument for self defense a matter for a jury. For the record, I am a moderate, law-abiding, concealed-carrying Pennsylvanian, whom quite often will carry for personal protection. That fact places me at a higher level of responsibility than those whom might not be, not less. What I have the biggest problem with is that you and people with similar comments as those you presented here have yet to comment on what young Trayvon was doing that was so wrong. He was walking, with a hoodie on. Since when is that a crime. And I keep hearing how George liked Black people, as if that in anyway dispels the fact that he wouldn't racially profile. I know Black people who racially profile against other Blacks. Ask yourself two questions, 1. Do you believe Zimmerman would've responded differently at seeing and blonde-haired, blue-eyed, teenager, Billy (instead of Trayvon) walking his neighborhood in a hoodie. 2. Would it change your opinion on this case if little Billy was lying dead on the side walk, Skittles in hand.

      I will say this last thing, George Zimmerman had a responsibility to contact the authorities. He had, as a licensed to carry citizen, to protect both himself, and others around him, including Trayvon. He acted hastily and rashly and a young kid is dead. If he'd done it with is car, he'd be tried for wreck-less endangerment. A jury should decide whether he committed a crime in this case, and if that cannot happen because of Florida law, then sir, there is most definitely wrong with the law!!!

      March 21, 2012 at 4:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mogan

      It's not a tragedy. Zimmerman, according to Florida Law, was acting legally. If you feel threatened. Say, you get into an argument with someone who is bigger than you, and you feel threatened, you can use deadly force. It doesnot matter if the threat was real, but if your feeling threatened was real – you can kill. I doubt this teenager was a threat. Zimmerman believed the kid was threatening. He had a hand in his pants? something was in his hand? That is enough under the 'stand your ground' law that allows you to shoot. That is why 'self defense' homicides have tripled in Florida. We've seen this elsewhere in Lousiana, where a kid was shot trick and treating because the homeowner thought he was a threat. In Florida there is a current case about about a road rage incident.

      March 21, 2012 at 4:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • back to the old south

      I love weak minded racists like 'only the facts' who just can't help themselves when they're hiding in their basements and typing at their keyboards furiously. It's all the liberals fault they cry after they've been in charge of Florida for years and years and turned their state into a gun lovers paradise. Nope, racists like 'only the facts' are unrepentent until they are affected themselves, and then they'll blame everyone else especially those evil liberals.

      March 21, 2012 at 11:38 pm | Report abuse |
  4. life101

    Conflicting reports, some say Mr. Zimmerman was NOT part of the neighborhood watch others say he was. Either way, glad I don't live in Florida if the Watch people think that gives them the Ok to shoot people. After he called the police & they told him not to follow the kid, he did, then said HE was threatened. This big man following a much smaller kid and the kid wasn't scared? When did the gun come into play, if the kid saw the gun I'm sure he was frightened so how can that not be defending yourself as opposed to threatening Zimmerman. Hope the true facts come out soon, all the partial information is just fueling the fire.

    March 21, 2012 at 3:11 pm | Report abuse |
  5. don

    so many of you are so quick to judge this guy. it seems so irrational. the facts are not known yet... what if he was attacked??? do you throw a guy in jail for self defense? i do agree they should arrest him and hold him pending the investigation. sandford is not a safe place, i delivered pizzas for hungry howies out there, one of the drivers got mugged when he made a drop off. i myself refused to deliver to house that weren't well lit. so i can understand the need to have a ccp. i don't know zimmermans record, but it couldn't have been that bad, it's a pain in the butt to get a ccp. these racist comments need to stop..

    March 21, 2012 at 3:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • debra

      look at the picture of the victim versus the picture of Mr. Z. then take into consideration the victim had no weapon. Self-defense? Not looking like it to me. However, the racial aspects may not be as strong as some suggest-more likely the fact the victim was a young male may have been what made Mr. Z think, in error, that he was up to something.

      March 21, 2012 at 3:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • Court

      He used deadly force against a person carrying a bag of skittles. There was no reason for him to draw his weapon. Zimmerman admitted that Trayvon was running away. Why did he follow him? He had already called the police. Zimmerman's actions led directly to the murder of an unarmed child.

      March 21, 2012 at 3:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • MEME

      DON, if he was attacked, which I doubt because the young man*rest in peace* ran away, he could have fought like a man with his fists, but he looks like a punk so he did what he did.

      March 22, 2012 at 1:16 pm | Report abuse |
  6. debra

    Reports have surfaced that Mr. Z has an anger management problem and was arrested for violence with an ex. Perhaps not quite the nice guy as his neighbors thought? also it's very important to note that he chose to ignore the 911 operator who told him NOT to follow the young man. It looks to me like the young man killed was more scared than Mr. Z; and he didn't have a gun, either.

    March 21, 2012 at 3:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dave

      He was getting his education degree. Would you like him teaching your kid? And kids don't be caught in the hallway without a pass. bang bang bang. All the students at Seminole State better beware!

      March 21, 2012 at 3:17 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Dave

    Social media needs to unite and track the location of Zimmerman wherever he goes. The next kid he kills may be yours!

    March 21, 2012 at 3:14 pm | Report abuse |
  8. MysteriaKiito

    Regardless of whether he was racist or not, he took the law into his own hands and shot an unarmed teenager who was much smaller than he was. If we knew those details alone and race was never mentioned we'd all still see Zimmerman as the bad guy.

    March 21, 2012 at 3:20 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Skip

    All this hysteria based on emotionalism by poorly educated pawns to further some leftist agenda. I am surprised no-one has put forth that they saw "Zimmerman" kick a puppy. It is really sad to watch such a mob. This will not be remembered after the next media fueled "case". Stupid stupid people. Pathetic!

    March 21, 2012 at 3:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • Michael

      So.. if I get your rambling right.. Zimmerman was the victim here right? He should never have had to see a black man walking down the street. And that black man should have shuffled over and submitted to questioning by this stranger with a gun, as any good subservient black man would do. right? is that what you are saying?

      March 21, 2012 at 3:25 pm | Report abuse |
  10. FFFF

    The liberal media is foaming at the mouth to try and portray Zimmerman as a White male....

    March 21, 2012 at 3:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • skpfrmdc

      The fact that he doesn't look white is a comfort to many of you Im sure.

      March 22, 2012 at 2:30 pm | Report abuse |
  11. sircharles

    Any person who takes some one life for any reason also is innocent until proven guilty. The neighborhood where this took place has blacks whites, etc living there. To say that this teen was acting strange or whatever; it appear to all of us that Mr. zimmermen was the one acting strange in his actions and to take it upon himself and kill this person instead of waiting for the police and then make up a story as he is talking before he shoots and then continue to blame this teen. I am not buying it and Mr. Zimmermen has to tell the truth about this matter. There is no getting around it because the 911 tapes have already trap Mr. Zimmermen in his action.

    March 21, 2012 at 3:27 pm | Report abuse |
  12. ddaniels

    My sympathy for the family of this young boy.. I cannot even imagine it...but, yet it has happened... I cannot find any thing right about this... Any race, whatever, the fact that you cannot walk outside and the threat of being killed by someone whom has fears is ridiculous. Growing up we ran thru yards, hid playing hide & seek, trampled gardens, we would get yelled at, our parents would get a phone call.. The fact that you cannot walk outside is just infathomable, without someone questioning why you are outside is beyond comprehension. Yes, call the cops if it is 3AM, of which, this was not. If you do not recognize the person and they are taking a window off someone's home, yes, call the cops, but, to follow someone and even think you have the right to ask what or why they are there is not worth an answer from me... How dare this man, neighborhood WATCH person, follow him, accoust him or suspect him is a crime... What on earch materialistically would be worth a persons life and the problems this shooter is going to go thru... the rest of his life... The boy had skittles, the WATCHER had a gun... Someone cries for help, I am sure it was not the WATCHER, with the gun... He has to live with what he did with that poor child's life, and our society has to live again with a black eye on human life.. Is this society getting so paranoid of each other that this is the result. If that is the case my grandchildren do not have a prayer in this world to grow up as children and experience any of lifes pleasures for the fact that there is fear around every corner of someone taking their lives cause they were not where they were suppose to be by the thoughts of someone else. Also, on those tapes, when the WATCHER is talking with the police, the person he is with, female voice, states that he is carrying skittles, is anyone listening. that should of been a clue he was not robbing anyplace and that it was not a man but a kid... This man should be put in jail and face charges and have to prove to all that this was self defense, when did we get it all backwards..... Innocent until proven guilty, fine, but when do the law enforcement agencies become judge juror and criminalogists... I am sure that the scene of this incident was not protected also... I know I would be moving out of that neighborhood fast before one gets shot leaving their home or coming home...Something to think about...

    March 21, 2012 at 3:29 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Barry

    Some people here on this blog are ddumb. The lay in Florida is "stand your Ground." The word STAND simply means to protect one's self. Leaving your immediate area and pursuing someone is not standing your ground. if you think different, then I can meet you at the grocery store watch when you are about to exit the store; ensure that I am outside before you exit, then align my self in your direction, then shoot you merely because you are walking towards me. Woudl that scenario works. Well I guess it only works if you are white, Blacks and Hispanics need not try. There is always acommodations at the local jail or prison for us.

    March 21, 2012 at 3:30 pm | Report abuse |
  14. KA

    This is an EPIC fail on so many levels by the police department of Sanford. For starters let me say that I am a concealed carry permit holder in many states including Florida. God forbid if I ever had to use my firearm on someone; I expect that my gun should be taken from me by the authorities and submitted into evidence. At the same time I would expect my concealed carry permit be taken until the end of the investigation. Oh did I mention that I would have no problem submitting to a drug/alcohol test to make sure I wasn't under the influence. None of this happened!
    If the police know what I know they need to take him into custody for his safety! The same "Stand Your Ground" law that Zimmerman is professing could be used against him. There are close to 800,000 concealed carry permit holders in Florida. I would imagine that in that number there are some people who are outraged at what is going on(in support of Trayvon). According to the "Stand Your Ground" law, you have the right to use deadly force if you fear your life is in danger or that u feel that you could be seriously injured. So looking at the law, a person that comes in contact with Zimmerman could easily say "hey this guy already killed a teen for no reason, I feared for my life. Therefore it was him or me." I'm not saying that I condone this, I only used this example to illustrate, that he is safer off the streets in many facets.

    March 21, 2012 at 3:31 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Diane

    I read that Trayvon weighed 140 pounds. Zimmerman weighs 250. I really doubt a 140 pound man would swing the first blow at a 250 pounder with a gun in his hand.

    March 21, 2012 at 3:35 pm | Report abuse |
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